Ronda swipes her card to pay for gas at a different gas station then she usually goes to because she spent the night at a friend’s house. Later in the day, she goes about her usual routine and goes to buy groceries on the way back home. When she gets to the front of the line, she swipes to pay and the cashier says that the card is declined and please call the bank. Ronda is thoroughly confused because she just got paid yesterday. She calls the bank and they inform her that there was a hold placed on the account due to possible fraudulent activity. After checking the account, she discovers there have been five charges in New York since 9am, while she is in Detroit and has been all day. She explains this to the bank and they take care of the charges from New York, but now she has to go in and get a new card or wait for one to come in the mail. Meanwhile, she cannot purchase anything unless she pays with cash. Luckily, the bank does not hold her responsible for those odd five charges, but her whole day or week is thrown off and now she continuously worries if someone has any more of her information. Just imagine if she hadn’t checked the account for a month… what if the bank didn’t catch it either?
Identity theft, credit card fraud and a breach in data security at major retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus, and P.F. Chang’s has everybody second guessing the “swipe” method of paying for goods and services. It is very convenient that credit and debit cards are easy to use. They eliminate the need to carry large amounts of cash, and are accepted practically anywhere. It may also be making you the easiest target for thieves. Many retailers only require the card number, expiration date and the security code on the back. When you hand your card to the cashier, that information can be copied very easily and quickly. Not to mention, if someone hacks into your computer… you pay bills online, send gifts to friends and family all over the world by online purchase; and you can save your account information on any site and simply pay at your leisure. All of these things makes us easy targets for hackers, data thieves and fraud experts.
Yes, many banks and websites have “protection’ in place and there are even companies keeping a watchful eye on your accounts. The problem is, most of these preventative measures are only effective after your information has been stolen. Many financial experts applaud the convenience of using your cards, but believe that cash is better and can save you money in the long run. Some even believe that carrying cash will help you to save. The idea is – if you pull out just enough money for the week, you will not overspend on needless things. When your weekly allowance has been spent, then you don’t buy whatever new trinket you are looking to buy right then. Maybe we should go back to the days when Grandma said, “keep a few dollars on you at all times, you never know what you may need.” So, protect yourself. It may be cumbersome to re-enter information every month or to change your passwords that often, but it is worth it.