That Time We Were Scammed Out of $6K

This family's bank came to the rescue -- and yours could too.

One thing that our family truly believes is important is to always “give unto others.” We regularly donate to our church and local organizations. Anytime kids are raising money for their organizations or sporting clubs, we chip in. (Yes, we buy those big tubs of cookie dough.) For us, giving to others is part of what you do. It is in our budget and something that we teach our kids, as well.

Although we donate, we do have to limit the amount we give to others. After all, we are saving for our family’s needs, as well as covering our living expenses. So, you can probably imagine my husband’s surprise when he logged into our bank account one day and noticed a donation of $1,239.60 made to Joel Osteen.

Read More: 15 Signs You’re Being Scammed

His first instinct was to ask me about it. I told him there was no way I would donate a ton of money to anyone, especially not without checking with him first. As he looked over our transactions, he found two more: one for $1,663.20 and another for $1,607.00.  Over the course of three days, we’d unknowingly donated more than $4,500 to Joel Osteen’s ministry.

At first, we were shocked, and then we were angry. We had been hacked, and our information had been stolen. Now we had to go through the hassle of getting new cards, updating payment details and all of the other headaches that come with credit card fraud.

After our anger subsided, we had to laugh about it. Who steals your credit card information to donate to a charitable organization? Talk about a head-scratcher.

More on Scam Artists: Don’t Fall Victim to These Money Scams

Fortunately, we have a fantastic bank that jumped right in to help us. They pulled up our account and found two more pending transactions for more than $1,200 each — again payable to Joel Osteen. Had they gone through, that would have meant well over $6,000 worth of phony donations to his ministry. Luckily, the bank was able to cancel those and refund the entire balance while they worked through the details. Fortunately, as soon as they reached out to Joel Osteen’s ministry and told them what happened, they instantly issued a refund.

We were lucky enough to have the funds to cover such a massive theft. Not only that, we use a bank that jumps into action and first makes sure that we are taken care of before they attempt to go after the thieves and recover the damages. But the experience reminded us of the things we need to do to ensure our credit and debit cards are protected — and so do you. Here are a few ways that you can protect yourself.

Have a Credit Card Dedicated to Online Transactions

Designate a credit card you have (or apply for a new one) that will be used strictly for online purchases. Use that card for any automated payments for your monthly bills, as well as your shopping needs. If your card is stolen, you are not left without a card to use for other purchases and also easily know which sites you need to visit to update your information.

Make Sure the Site Is Secure

Before you enter your information online, always ensure the site you’re using has proper security software installed. If you do not see the security certificate in the web address (look for “https” versus just “http”), do not enter your credit card details.

Do Not Share Your Number

Guard your credit card information as well as you do your social security number. Do not give it out to anyone. Also, be careful of people near you when swiping your card, as they may be watching in order to sell your numbers online.

Also, when someone you don’t know calls you, never give them your credit card information. There are scams around every corner, and you do not want to end up a victim.

Check Out: Being Desperate for Money Almost Got Me Scammed

Watch Your Statements

Many people toss their statements when they come in the mail and never look at them. Don’t do that. Carefully review every transaction and make sure you made them. It is also important to check your transaction activity online a few times a month. If you’re checking fairly often, you have a better chance of catching fraudulent transactions shortly after they happen and preventing others from occurring.

One thing many scammers do is run test purchases before they jump in with more significant transactions. You may see payments of $1.00 or less on your statement. Most of the time, people do not pay attention to these since they are so small. However, you want to make sure you are actually the one who made them, or you could soon see a more significant purchase hitting your card.

Check for Skimming Devices

Before you slide your card at the ATM or gas station, check for a skimming device. If the scanner looks odd for any reason, avoid using it.

Dispose of Old Cards Properly

When you get a new credit card, make sure you cut up the old one. But, don’t just cut it in half and throw it away. Cut through the numbers on the card so they can not be read. The more pieces you can make, the better.

See: What I Purged From My Wallet to Avoid Identity Theft

Shop With Credit Cards (Not Debit) Online

When shopping online, never use a debit card. Since your debit card is attached to your bank account, thieves can more easily gain direct access to your money. If you don’t have a credit card, you can still shop online and pay with Paypal. You may also consider getting a gift card (such as a Visa gift card) that you can reload with money. If this card number is stolen, they can only get the balance on the card and nothing more.

Read More: My Credit Card Was a Major Money Leak — Learn How I Stopped Drowning

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