HAPPENINGS: Holidays and guarding yourself against financial fraud

Janice Lynn Crose | Special to the News Bulletin/USA TODAY NETWORK

CRESTVIEW — My husband, Jim, and I were almost victims of fraud this week. I opened our credit card statement and noticed a charge for $62.54 to an unknown company.

This charge was made on my credit card, which is interesting, as this is a credit card I only use for online shopping. There were no fraudulent charges on my husband's card, which he uses for everyday items.

I looked up the name of the company that charged me online and didn't recognize anything about them. I then looked in my email to see if I had a receipt for this transaction. I had nothing regarding this transaction. So I got online with the credit card company's website and began to research.

After answering the website's questionnaire, the instructions said to call the fraud department of our credit card issuer. After going through many questions and being transferred from department to department I finally reach a very helpful lady named Laura.

After looking at our account, she determined that we were the victims of fraud, put a stop on that credit card and issued a new card with a new number. She then looked up my transactions and told me with which businesses I had automatic payments so that I could update them when the new card arrived. The process was fairly painless, but rather time consuming. We never did figure out where or by whom my card was compromised.

There are a few holiday schemes and scams this year. Many of these we have seen before, but keep your eyes open.

The first one is the IRS scam where you receive a phone call and are told you must pay a certain amount of money immediately to the IRS in gift cards or a Western Union wire transfer or the local police will come and arrest you. This is always a scam, the IRS does not work in this manner. If you get such a phone call, tell the person you will wait until you receive an official bill in the mail and hang up. Do not give these callers any personal information, not even your name. The easiest way to protect yourself is to never answer a phone call from an unknown name or number. If the phone call is legitimate, they will leave a message.

Also, if you have a problem such as I described, use the phone number on your credit card statement or the back of your credit card. Never use a phone number from an email stating that you must call a certain financial institution right then using the phone number in the email. Never give your personal information to a stranger.

A good sentence to remember when speaking with someone you don't know is this: "We (or I) never discuss our personal financial information over the phone with strangers." You do not owe a stranger any information.

Also, open your credit card statements as soon as you receive them so that you can spot any fraudulent activity before it gets out of control. Keep your private information private. Shred any sensitive documents and please stay safe, Crestview.

Janice Lynn Crose

Janice Lynn Crose, a former accountant, lives in Crestview with her husband, Jim; her two rescue collies, Shane and Jasmine; and two cats, Kathryn and Prince Valiant.