It is important that you are safe when you are online. This is even more important if you are shopping. My husband and I thought that we had done just that. Turns out, we were wrong.
Someone stole our information. However, they didn’t use the money for themselves. They donated it to charity.
This past April we were getting ready to head to mass to watch our son make his First Communion. My husband logged into our back account (can’t honestly even remember why). He called me over to take a look when we saw it:
Debit: Joel Osteen Ministires — $1239.60
We both had to actually check twice. Did it really say that we gave Joel Osteen more than $1200?
We scrolled down through the prior transactions and found two more:
Debit: Joel Osteen — $1,663.20
Debit: Joel Osteen – $1,607.00
We’d never given Joel Osteen any money. Not a cent. However, there it was in black and white. A grand total of more than $4,500. It was then that we realized — we had been hacked. But, were we really hacked to give money to a Christian? Doesn’t that seem totally oxymoron:
Hacked To Give Money To Charity
We had to honestly laugh a little as it made no sense. Who in the world would ever hack someone’s account so that they could make donations to christian charity?!? It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
WHAT DID WE DO?
Later that same Sunday, my husband made a phone call to the fraud department of our bank and reported it. They immediately shut down our cards, flagged our account and began the process of correcting the situation. It was a good thing that we did as there are actually two more pending transactions – which were each also in excess of $1200 each!!! That would have meant another $2400 taken from us!!
For us, it meant no debit cards for a few days. This. was. a. pain.
It was not because of our every day purchases, as we usually use cash anyhow. However, we had several automatic payments set up online for our bills. We had to go and update all of those accounts once we received the emails advising us that our payment information was invalid. It was just a royal pain in the $&%.
The only other time when it was an issue was when we had to fuel my husband’s vehicle so he could go to work. It is just easier to pay at the pump. He had to get a bit more cash out and go inside and pre-pay before he was able to fill up the truck. Not the end of the world at all, but still, it was an inconvenience.
Our bank was amazing as they refunded the money back into our account within a couple of days. We were very fortunate to have enough money in our savings account that we did not go overdrawn (this is when a big emergency fund is a life saver). However, had that not been the case, we could have had even bigger issues to deal with.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
The odd thing is that we had not been doing any online shopping around that time. The only thing that thought made sense was that perhaps a skimmer was placed onto one of the gas station pumps my husband used on a recent trip.
To this day, we still aren’t sure how happened and we never will. We just know that it sucked. Yep. No better way to put it…it was just suck-suck-sucky!!!!!!
WHAT HAVE WE CHANGED SO IT DOESN’T HAPPEN AGAIN?
Considering that we do not often use our debit card, we really did not make many changes. We know our bank has an amazing fraud department and they jump in and help out consumers as soon as they can. It is reassuring to know that they are on our side.
The only change we are making is with our online shopping. As I’ve mentioned before, we haven’t owned a credit card in years. I applied and received one so that I could complete my 30 Day No Cash Challenge. We’ve decided that we will use this card for all of our online purchases, just for this reason.
While we know our bank would refund us any fraudulent charges, the inconvenience of having to get new cards and update payment information and having to wait to get the money in our account makes us not want to shop online nor use them very often.
Now, we know that if our credit card happens to be hacked, the only issue we have is the current charge(s). There is no having to update payment information nor waiting for a new card to arrive so we can use it. Still a pain? Yes. But nearly as much as in the past.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU DON’T OWN A CREDIT CARD?
If you want to shop online, but only have a debit card, you are a bit more limited in your options. Obviously many don’t have (and/or do not want) a credit card, so online shopping is done only with this card.
Here are a few ideas as to what you can do if you want to shop online and need to keep your bank information safe:
- Purchase gift cards. These have limited funds on them and if the number is taken, you are out only the amount remaining on the card. They have no access to any other information, which means they can not steal anything further from you.
- Sign up for a Pay Pal account. This account can be attached to your checking account. That means when you shop, the money will be deducted automatically for your purchase – but hackers would never have access to your bank account information.Keep in mind that many retailers will accept PayPal as a form of payment, but some will not.
- Set up a separate bank account for online shopping. You will have a separate card that is used for your online purchases. You just need to make sure that you do not have overdraft protection attached to the account (and them make sure you never overspend either).When you get ready to shop online, transfer the money between your main and online account. The balance will always be very low, so if you are hacked, you are not out very much (while you wait for your bank to make the deposit for you).
Whatever way you decide to shop online, make sure you carefully monitor accounts. Watch for small transaction of $1 or less (as that can be tell tale sign that someone is testing to make sure your card number works). Make it a practice to check your statements at least 1 – 2 times every week (if not every day).
Having your bank information stolen is not fun. Just make sure you are ready when someone comes calling …. taking money to give to someone you don’t know!
**Joel Osteen Ministries was not the guilty party in this situation at all. They immediately refunded the money back to our bank when they reached and explained what happened. They do not condone hacking of any sort. However, be careful as when you are hacked, your name will get onto their mailing list. 😉