Monday, November 14, 2005

my brush with identity theft, part deux

A few weeks ago I received a letter from Citibank advising me that they considered the previous transaction charged to my credit card from the dubious Kochujang Restaurant in Pasay as a valid transaction. They also sent me a copy of the sale slip and recommended that I send the dispute letter by a certain date or else they would charge me the full amount, plus finance charges and a sale slip retrieval fee of P250.00.

I took a look at the sale slip and froze for a few seconds. I had thought it might have been an erroneous transaction, but there, staring back at me in black and white, was a manual transaction slip (the one with the carbon paper and the 'plantsa') with my signature on it. Well, it wasn't my signature, but a shaky and bad forgery. The card was a fake! There were obvious differences between it and my actual card, which was in my possession: the spacing of the letters was different, the positioning of the Visa initial, as well as the Member Since date. I've pointed these out to Citibank's billing dispute department and am just awaiting their response on the obvious fakery and forgery. I've since cancelled the card and requested for a new card.

Meanwhile, I saw a recent episode of CSI Miami regarding identity theft. The thief went through a woman's trash and got her social security number. I thought that there were more stringent laws regarding identity theft and fraud thereabouts, but apparently if you haven't been caught in the act, there's basically not enough evidence to book you; especially if you cover your tracks. I'd like to think criminals in the Philippines are less sophisticated, but maybe not. It's downright scary, especially since you put so much faith in technology that might not have that much security, hence coming around to bite you in the arse.

Lessons learned: Always account for your credit card spending instead of just routinely paying the bill. This goes twice for people like me for whom credit cards are the default mode of payment. For smaller transactions, especially at dubious restaurants, try not to use credit cards anymore because they bring the cards to the back for payment--you don't know what they're doing to the card while it's away. Take all precautions for keeping your personal information private. Transact on the internet only on secure and reputable sites; shred (or, in my case, since I am a closet pyromaniac, burn) all past statements and transaction slips. Also, one shouldn't be hassled when cashiers ask for further identification--this should be status quo. Although licenses can be easily faked too, at least it would help. There should be better legislation regarding identity theft, that much is true. When this happens to you, there's nothing to feel but indignant yet thoroughly helpless. Let's not make it easier for criminals to take advantage of us, then.

Last Song Syndrome : Soul to Squeeze - Red Hot Chili Peppers

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