Identity Theft & Credit Card Fraud: How to Protect Your Money

With credit card fraud and identity theft happening more frequently, we all have to step up our game. Learn keys ways to protect your finances and identity!

Fraud And Identity Theft Not Going Away

I hope you never have to deal with identity theft, data breaches, or fraud but chances are you will.

There were 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports received by the FTC in 2020, an increase of 45 percent from 2019.

The Ascent from Motley Fool reported that credit card fraud was the most common type of identity theft last year – over 270,000 reports.

Another unfun stat – identity theft doubled from 2017 to 2019.

Finally in 2019 almost 165 million records containing personal data were exposed through data breaches.

The point? 

Cyber crimes aren’t going away anytime soon.

In fact last year, I got hit.


The first one, I received a call from Coastal about suspicious activity on my card. Thankfully that was quickly resolved. 

Second time, I discovered it when doing my monthly review. I saw a $140 charge from California. I called and explained this wasn’t me. 

It took a month of back and forth, but I got it cleared. It was a headache.

One I hope you avoid. 

Which is why I’m so glad Joe Mecca is back on the show. 

In this episode we get into:

  • Practical ways we can protect our finances when you're offline or online
  • Tools to manage your passwords and cards
  • What you need to do if your card is compromised

Hope you enjoy it!

Resources to Protect Your Finances

If you're getting more proactive with protecting your identity and money, here are some handy resources to check out!

For freezing your accounts or putting an alert you need to contact the credit bureaus.

  • Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion: 1-833-395-6938

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

Protecting Yourselves Against Fraud and Identity Theft

Elle Martinez: I'm thrilled to have you, but this topic about fraud protection is never a happy subject to talk about, but sadly, we've been having to deal with this. So I love having you over to share your expertise.

Joe Mecca: I almost hate having the expertise.

Yeah, it's an important topic and unfortunately, for a lot of people, it's usually not one that, you're ready to talk about when you have to talk about it. Fraud is reality though; it happens.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, even with traditional banking, fraud was an issue; scams of course.

Now, especially with the past year, most of us are moving to digital banking for everything. They've gotten more sophisticated and you just have to be on top of everything.

Last year we had to deal with it twice. One case [was] with a credit card, from a different bank. It was a headache.

Thankfully, Coastal actually notified me [with the other situation] and I found out about that, but yeah, it's something that we deal with.

Even if we have the strong passwords, even if we're taking the precautions and making sure we're not having the same, like usernames and passwords through different accounts.

Joe Mecca: Right, right. I actually, I had, I think I had my own situation since the last time we talked about the subject where I use my debit card.

It was an ATM at a diner and a couple of months later I started getting attempts. I had the card turned off, but I started getting attempts.

Somebody was trying to use my card and out West somewhere.

I had the team look into that and they confirmed that. It was in fact, yeah, somebody had duplicated my card, so you never know when it's going to happen.

Why It's So Important to Track Your Finances

Joe Mecca: The best we can do is be vigilant and know what to look for and know how to protect ourselves. And then what to do if something happens.

I think that's probably the most important thing is, if you can recognize it and catch it early enough, there are things that you can do to protect yourself to stop the damage from occurring and to work, to reverse and all the effects of it.

That is the nice thing, especially if we're talking about card fraud is you're not liable if you catch it early you report it.

You're not the one who's liable for that, so you can get made whole but you need to do some things to make sure you're on the lookout for it.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I know the first step is always staying on top.

I recommend having monthly money dates where you [two] sit down and kind of plan and talk about what you want to do for the next month and look back at the last month.

We also do these really quick [reviews] on Fridays; just seems to be the best time for us.

Just log into the accounts, make sure everything's gone through the bills for the week or whatever you need to take care of.

That's actually how I caught on the credit card. I was reviewing things and I saw that there was this charge for groceries of all things on the other side of the country.

And I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute. That's not me.'

Tips to Keep Tabs on your Bank Accounts

Joe Mecca: Yeah and a lot of times that is the big red flag, because it's a transaction that's happening in a completely different geographic area. You touched on the first thing. What can you do to protect yourself?

And let's be vigilant, and know where you use your card, be aware of the places that you're typically spend. Be in constant communication if you're sharing accounts or sharing cards. And then monitor those accounts regularly.

So you log in online banking, you can, yeah. If you have the mobile banking app, you can check your accounts that way.

I love setting up transactional alerts. We've got alerts. They make fun of me at work because I set up all the alerts that we have. And for me, it's more about seeing what the experience is, but well, a little bit of it's being extra paranoid.

So I'll do it every time I do a transaction, I might get three alerts, through each system we have, but if you can set up transaction, you can set them up by dollar amount or type of transactions.

I encourage people to always do that. So that way, something pops up on your phone and says your card was just swiped at CVS and you haven't been to CVS. Well, that's something to look into But it even goes as far as like how you use your card.

You mentioned having strong passwords and having, multi-factor for your online log-ins and that'll protect you from doing your online transactions and hopefully, people keep people from accessing your account.

How the EMV Credit Card Chips Protect You

But still the biggest source of fraud is people stealing your card information at the register or at the ATM.

So I always prefer to do, if I can do a chip transaction instead of a Stripe transaction, cause those are encrypted.

Those are going to be a lot harder to steal and replicate because what they're doing is going to take the information from the card and they're going to move, make a duplicate card.

Somebody wants to either for your online use with your card information, your credentials, or to actually create a fake version of your card, a piece of plastic that they can go and use at a store.

So I always prefer if I can to do a chip transaction. Now Coastal's one of them, but a lot of, a lot of other institutions are rolling out contactless, which you don't have to insert your card.

You don't have to swipe your card. It's doing, it's doing a little over, you know, radio signal back and forth to the card, but those are encrypted.

Those are going to generate a unique code and it's going to be for that transaction for that point in time.

So again, it's going to be much harder for somebody to replicate your card because the information they have, isn't tied to your card. It's tied to that transaction.

Know Your Mobile Payment Options

Same thing too if you've got mobile payment options, I like to use Apple pay. That's creating a encrypted token, so you're not actually passing your card information because really in order for somebody to do like you've gone and purchase stuff online. Right?

And to do that, you put in your name, your card number, your expiration date and the code on the back.

Yep. Well, If some, somebody can skim the information from you using your card at a compromised terminal somewhere, they're going to be able to get that information and that's all they need to do at transaction.

I always like to, you know, be on the lookout for limiting as many opportunities you can for you to do, to transaction that way, which would reduce the number of times that somebody could possibly steal your card information.

The same thing with using your phone. Everybody's got online, log-ins tied to their phone now, and you can do online banking or mobile banking from your phone. You may have, you may have your cards stored on your phone password store on your phone.

Whenever possible, make sure you're using a password on your phone, use biometric login. That would be your touch ID or your facial recognition because more and more access to your phone has access to your financial records.

You want to be able to help prevent that from happening and really keep your information secure.

And then just be on the lookout for the types of places you're using. Like I had mentioned, I got compromised using an ATM at a diner and I knew it.

I knew it going, I knew it going to withdraw the cash. Like this is the kind of place I don't want to lose my guard. And sure enough that's what happened.

So go with your gut. If it feels sketchy, if you're using a gas pump, that's kinda out of view or an ATM that's out of view.

Go down the road a little bit and look for something that's a little bit better situated. Cause you know, if it doesn't feel right, there's a good chance that it feels right to the person who's trying to steal from you.

Avoid These Big Mistakes with Your Passwords

Elle Martinez: Yeah, definitely. They've gotten more sophisticated which means, we have to step up our game and you have a lot of great point.

I want to rehash and make this clear because I had been guilty of this in the past- which is [not] having different passwords for your accounts, especially with your financial institutions.

I know it's so hard to track all the passwords now because everything is online. For me, password manager, I like, because it will generate a secure password.

You can put like the rules that you want to have the upper lowercase symbols, all that.

You can have these unique passwords because if they get access to one, they're going to try to get access to different accounts, once they have that information.

So those are really good tips, Joe. I appreciate it.

Joe Mecca: If a website gets compromised, if people's passwords get stolen what they'll do is they'll just create a big, long list. There'll be millions of logins and passwords, and then they'll go to every site they can find and try those credentials.

They get in because people use the same passwords and usernames, so it mix it up. Same as you, I like to use a password manager. I don't know my passwords, the most important passwords to me. I don't know.

Elle Martinez: It's sad because we got, you've just gotten to the point where, creating so many passwords between work, personal, and then with the kids remote learning, then they have their own accounts.

The temptation to go with easy to remember passwords is there, but it's just better, less of a headache being more proactive with the passwords and protecting yourself.

What You Should Do If You're a Victim of Credit Card Fraud

Elle Martinez: So I want to switch just a little bit. Let's say, unfortunately someone's done their best but they got hit with their cards and they found out while they were checking transactions for the week, something unauthorized happened.

Do you mind kind of giving like a high level view of the steps they need to take? You mentioned, if they do it quick enough, they won't be liable.

Joe Mecca: Right. So that's true with, with credit cards, debit cards. We tell people anything with the visa logo on it and Coastal's a visa shop. We issued visa plastic, but I know the rules are similar for MasterCard and other issuers.

The consumer is not liable for fraud if it's shown to be fraud.

Most cases it's going to be the institution that eats the cost and does what they need to do to make you whole but you know, you're going to want to notify your provider.

It could be your credit union, your bank, your, your just credit card issuer. You want to make sure you notify them, let them know that your card has been compromised.

They'll typically issue a new one right away. They're going to typically block your existing card right away so it can't be used anymore.

Identify which transactions you believe are fraudulent and the time period as well, because they're going to want to be on the lookout for maybe a new transaction comes in.

Especially when things get run as credit cards, there's always a lag time and it could be a few days before another transaction comes in before you can see it.

So you don't want to notify them, not just the transactions, but the time period that is in question.

You may have to file a police report. I think the last time we talked, you had a stolen purse. So it was more than just more than just notifying your card to assure, but you may want to file a police report as well.

And then continue to watch for fraudulent charges and you can always add additional fraudulent charges onto whatever claim you've made back with your financial institution.

If it's only one financial institution, that's easy. If you've had multiple cards stolen, then you may have to call multiple people and work it from that angle.

The sooner you can identify the transactions, the sooner you can identify the time period then your card issuers are going to be able to stop new fraud from happening, get you a new card and then work to make you whole on, on what you've lost on those other transactions.

Elle Martinez: I know when I went to Denver and my purse was stolen, I was more frustrated because like you mentioned, your phone has access to so many different accounts.

Thankfully I was able to, basically turn it into a paperweight remotely.

It was easy to call and immediately get those things canceled. I know part of it was also financial institutions are getting smarter about this – some, a little faster than the others.

Personally, I've seen Coastal be real responsive. Last year when I had those two incidents, two different cards, Coastal's the one that called me.

It was another out-of-state charge. It was a gas. I think it was Midwest this time. Got the call for that and they instantly responded.

How Coastal Credit Union is Protecting Its Members Against Credit Card Fraud

Elle Martinez: Coastal has been doing to protect your finances and give you some peace of mind. Do you mind going over some new developments?

Joe Mecca: So my favorite thing and there is a new development with it too. I know I've talked about it in the past is the CardNav app, which is a second app.

It's not our core mobile banking app. It's a second app that is really designed to be a card control app.

We recently launched a new version of the app. The old one was it wasn't branded. It was made by our card provider.

We've worked with them to create a coastal version of that app, coastal branded, which is really nice. It makes it really easy to organize your cards because it's got the actual card art in there.

It's got the more accurate card names. The old way it was, you see the last four digits and you have to kind of remember which four digit card was which now you can actually see which card you're talking about and scroll through your cards a little bit easier.

The nice thing about the card nav app too, is we've also now added credit cards to the app. It used to just be debit cards. Now it's credit and debit.

The great thing about card nav is it allows you to control your cards. You can turn them on. You can turn them off.

You can set limits on the geographic location of where your card can be used. You can actually set the proximity so you can say don't let my card be used if it's not near my phone.

So if your card and your phone aren't in the same place. Yeah, it'll, it'll not allow that transaction you can set dollar amount limits. You can limit the types of transactions.

So my credit card, I always, and I have to remember this on my credit card because sometimes you get recurring stuff, so I'll shut off everything except for recurring payments.

I know the recurring payments will go through, but nobody else can use my credit card for anything else until I turn it back on.

You can set, you can set dollar threshold so even if you wanted to like protect yourself from yourself, cause some of us need to do that.

Some of us need to do that, but those habits until we get them in place, you know, I only want this card to be used for $500 per month. You could set that.

It'll cut you off, you know, if you're over that limit or over that limit per day, or even per transaction, like say I only use this card to buy lunch. So if it's more than 15 or $20, don't allow the transaction.

The flip side of that too, is there's alerts, so you can get alerted for everything.

So even if you don't want to limit or block transactions from happening, which is great way to prevent fraud is to turn the card off and not allow the transaction. But if you want to just monitor your card and leave it on, you can really customize the types of alerts you get.

So you can get a little text alert or a little. It's actually a push notification pop up right on your phone. That'll say, you know, your car has been used here. Here's how much your card was declined. And here's why and for me, it's, I forgot to turn the card back on. Or I had limited a category.

And then did the transaction that fit into that category that I didn't realize it would be like, yeah, it was online purchase and I thought it was something else. So yeah, for me, it's just remembering to turn the cart, the cards back on or off, but it's really nice. Cause you'll get you, you get a lot of insight into, into how your cards work and where they're being used.

It's great. Like I said, if you've got family members who are, you have that another card that's tied to your account and you want to get notified that, you know, maybe, maybe you're great with the card being used, but you want to make sure, you know, how much has been used for, for budgeting purposes.

So it's really powerful tool because it gives you a lot of information and a lot of control. And like I said, we just, we just relaunched that. So it's a brand new brand new standalone app. There's information about that on our website. Yeah, of course you do have to be a coastal member to use it.

So a little, a little bit fun, a little bit of a complication there for your non coastal members, but yeah.

Elle Martinez: Well, it can be easily fixed, right? Really easily fix it. They sign up.

Joe Mecca: Well, I know you talk us up so much that I'm hoping a large portion of your viewership or listenership is is coastal members.

But there are, there are control tools like this available from other institutions as well.

So you know, hopefully if you know, people. Aren't with us. They're not a coastal member. They at least know enough to look back to their institution and say, Hey, does my, does my credit card or my debit card have this feature?

And if so, how do I, how do I get that? How do I use it? Because again, it's the most important tool that you're gonna have is the one that you control yourself.

Be With a Better Banking Partner

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. And I do also agree with you is you should feel wherever your banking options with whether it's, credit union or elsewhere, it should feel like a partner.

You know, which is why we stuck with Coastal because that's how we feel. We feel like we're not getting nickeled and dimed. When we feel like there's always some new feature that helps us manage your money better, which is a big help.

Key Takeaways on Dealing with credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft

Before we close up I want to focus on some key takeaways I got from my discussion with Joe.

  • Prepare yourself now. It’s not a matter of if, but when. It’s critical that we all become more vigilant.
  • Don’t reuse passwords. The way things are now, even if you do a good job on your side. Data breaches can happen so please mix your passwords.
  • Become familiar with tools and options available. I love that coastal has redone card nav, giving it more features. Like Joe mentioned, if you bank somewhere else, it’s good to become familiar with whatever features or services that offer. 

Unfortunately things like these aren’t going away, so if you want to talk about your experience and share some key tips that helped you, please join us over at Thriving Families on Facebook.

It’s a free, private, and positive community where we help one another out. We'd love to see you there!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
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  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Our theme song is from Staircases. Additional music by various artists from Audiio.

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