Here’s this week’s Media Mix about last month’s big ATM heist. At the end of the column I mention a segment about credit card security that aired on NHK’s morning information program “Asaichi.” The segment was one of the few I’ve seen that shows how Japan’s financial institutions are working on this problem, and I got the feeling from the way the reporter was treated that it wasn’t something institutions necessarily want to publicize widely, but in the wake of these sort of robberies it might be a good idea to let people know that they are being protected to a certain extent.
But the message was clear: It’s really up to card users to make sure their money is safe, even if card companies are expanding their surveillance activities. An outside expert explained how hackers advertise stolen card numbers and passwords on so-called black sites where “customers” can buy this information for prices starting at $25.00. The price is higher for cards with higher credit limites, etc. The expert also pointed out that people who use these cards illegally will likely not use them for large purchases, since they will be flagged immediately by either the card company or the card holder and the card will be cancelled. So he recommended to card holders to check their monthly statements carefully for even small amounts that seem unusual. Since most people have lots of items on their statements, they may not check everything closely, especially if the amounts are small.
It’s important to catch these illegal purchases quickly since card companies give you up to 60 days to point them out. After that the card holder has to pay for those purchases. However, NHK also interviewed one card holder who had been hacked and noticed illegal purchases on her statement, and then got the runaround when she called the credit card company. Even when she called the police they said they couldn’t do anything about it, only the credit card company could, since it was the credit card company who they considered the “victim.” Eventually, she cancelled the card and was able to get her money back, but only after she had called the Internet shoppping service that charged her and she spent time going over the purchase. The point is: Keep all your records, including receipts, to make sure the items on your statement are things you really bought, and call the card company immediately when you see something wrong. You may get the runaround, or you may not. Also, always be present when you hand your card to someone in a shop, and make sure they don’t take it away, since they might be copying down the information. A main source of stolen credit card info is sloppy retail security.