How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Theft

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April 16, 2018

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A Thief Broke Into My Car and Stole All My Credit Cards

…Here’s What I Learned

I headed to a favorite trail to get in some running a couple weeks ago. While I was out there taking in some fresh air and exercise, some meanie was breaking into my car, stealing all of my credit cards, and boogieing down the highway to go shopping. He/she/they spent thousands and thousands at several stores.

Throughout this PITA event, I’ve learned a couple things. Keep reading for EASY tips to help protect yourself against credit card theft.

1. Make a list of the credit cards you have, the last four numbers of each card, and the phone number to call in case the card is stolen. Store this information someplace safe.

This is so obvious, but I didn’t have this information all together.

Instead, after I discovered the theft, I had to look up each bank online and find the numbers to call. This took more time than it should have because I was a bit frazzled and anxious.

The police wanted to know the last four numbers of each card to help with their case, and I had to figure out some of this info by looking up recurrent charges that I’ve set up with several companies. A pain.

2. Keep track of what is in your wallet.

I’m a mom with a million things on my mind. I have no idea what is in my wallet or purse, other than a couple firetrucks, goldfish crumbs, and wrinkled up receipts. But, in retrospect, I do wish I kept better track of the contents of my wallet.

The thieves got a hold of my credit and debit cards, but they were kind enough to leave my driver’s license and Costco membership card behind. Did I have my library card in there (Are they going to check out books and leave me with a fine?! Ha ha!)? Which credit and debit cards were actually in the wallet? What about a spare emergency check?[

3. If you see fraud in your online banking, take screenshots of the breaches so that you have a record.

I took a couple of screenshots that showed the false charges, but not from every account. And because banks reverse charges pretty quickly, you may not have easy access to a record of what happened. And since the police wanted to know exactly what happened, screenshots would have made it easier to get them that info (my memory for tiny details isn’t what it used to be since kiddos).

4. Follow up with the banks and the police.

Very obvious, but cancel all your credit and debit cards right away.

File a police report so that you have that for your records…and so that the police can best do their jobs! The local police department has been incredibly kind and helpful in this situation. (I figured this wouldn’t be a big deal to them, but they did spend 30 minutes with me, and followed up a couple times as well.)

5. Consider freezing your credit.

Just in case you left private info in your wallet, it makes sense to freeze your credit. Even though the thieves did not have access to my social security number (as far as I know), I decided to take this step to protect myself a bit more. Plus, with all the security breaches that seem to go on and on, I figured doing this couldn’t hurt.

6. Hiding your purse with a coat is not a good strategy to deter car thieves.

Whenever I park my car at a trailhead, I always cover up my purse/camera bag/phone/other items with a coat/blanket/other item. This is not a good strategy. It just tells a would-be thief: there is a valuable item under this coat/blanket/other item. And I thought I was being smart all these years…

7. Assume that anything in you car can get stolen at anytime.

I’m just sayin’. These people broke into my car at a crowded trail head as people milled about. I have a car alarm. None of this stopped them from breaking into my car. I’m pretty sure many thieves just want credit cards, but I sure am glad that I didn’t have my camera gear/laptop/expensive things in the car to test this theory. I’m still not sure how I will plan differently (especially when I have my epic days of photo shoot > exercise > errands > working at a coffee shop), but I will have to change something up.

8. Photograph any damage to your car and get the police a repair estimate.

I’ve been traveling and swapped cars with a family member, so I am still in this step. The thieves pried open the area around my driver’s side door lock, then popped the lock out. Because I always use the fob to get into my car, I didn’t even notice this until a few days after the incident occurred. This week I plan to take photos, call my car insurance company to see how to handle this, and then get an estimate at the car dealership (and perhaps get it fixed as well!).

(By the way, silly me, I thought they got into my car via the keys that I often hide around the vicinity of the car when I run. Alas, nope, they broke the lock. I kind of liked it more when I thought they get in by my own stupidity and just took my credit cards…now this is probably going to cost me my deductible of $500.)

(And, part of the reason I recommended this item in my last blog post was to keep both my keys and my phone on me as I run to change my habits for the better.)

Do you have any tips to protect yourself from credit card theft? Share them with us in the comments below, please!

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