Weekend Reading: Identity Fraud Edition

I check my credit card statements often and yesterday noticed a charge of $500+ from Amazon.ca that was linked to my wife’s card number (secondary cardholder on this account). This was strange, not only because we didn’t authorize the purchase but also because this particular card was not linked to our Amazon account. 

What we discovered was that someone opened an Amazon account under my wife’s name, with our home address, and added her credit card number to the account. The fraudster ordered a $500+ fitness watch, and, get this, had it shipped to our address (not due to arrive until later this week).

I contacted the credit card company to flag the unauthorized transaction and report the identity fraud. Mastercard offers Zero Liability protection, meaning the company won’t hold you responsible for unauthorized transactions. They also closed down my wife’s account and issued a new card number.

We contacted Amazon to report the unauthorized charge and investigate how this might have happened. The customer service agent was able to trace the card number to an account that was opened earlier in the week under my wife’s name and address, along with the purchase of a fitness watch.

The strangest part about this entire situation is that the item was shipped to our home address (good job, thief). The Amazon rep asked us to refuse the shipment when it arrived, and then it would issue a refund (a moot point, since the charge has already been reversed on my card statement).

In the meantime I asked if they could flag the account as fraudulent and not allow any further activity, to which they agreed.

Given the number of data breaches that have occurred over the past several years it’s no surprise that eventually one of us would fall victim to identity fraud or theft. My wife’s information could have been compromised at one or more of the largest data breaches in the world, including Adobe, Marriott, and My Fitness Pal.

We reported the identity fraud details to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which collect information on fraud, identity theft, and past and current scams.

Finally, we placed a potential fraud alert on my wife’s credit file online through TransUnion. The other credit reporting bureau, Equifax, which ironically had a data breach of its own that affected 147 million consumers, had no such online mechanism and its offices were closed for the weekend.

It can be scary to have your information compromised, but this type of identity fraud is becoming more and more prevalent today. Be sure to diligently check your credit card statements and report suspicious transactions immediately. 

Both Visa and MasterCard have Zero Liability protection, while American Express offers a similar Fraud Protection guarantee. 

Interac also offers fraud prevention, but a credit card’s protection is much more robust. If your bank card is compromised, the fraudster is taking money directly from your bank account, whereas an unauthorized credit card charge still has a 22+ day grace period before payment is required. 

This Week’s Recap:

As I mentioned in last Monday’s update, I received the lump sum payment of cash from my pension and put $30,000 into my TFSA, and another $3,700 into my RRSP to fully max out both accounts.

We also bought a hot tub(!), which will be delivered and installed in the coming weeks. Yes, we’re living our best stay-at-home life.

This week I wrote about commission-free trading and whether this is leading to bad investor behaviour (yes, and no).

Watch for my article on tax loss harvesting this week, plus a look at renewing your mortgage in this strange rate environment.

Promo of the Week:

I consistently get questions from readers about high interest savings accounts and where to park your money. The first answer is, not with a savings account at a big bank.

And, if you don’t want to bother moving your money around every 3-6 months to chase the latest interest rate promotions, you’re better off finding a bank that can offer a consistently high everyday rate.

That’s where EQ Bank comes in. EQ Bank’s Savings Plus Account consistently offers an everyday high interest rate at or near the top of the market with no hassles (2%). It even comes with some chequing account functionality, like bill payments and free e-Transfers. Open an account here.

Weekend Reading:

Our friends at Credit Card Genius offer 37 money saving tips when times are tough.

One of the bigger revelations at this year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual general meeting was that it sold off its entire stake in the four largest U.S. airlines in April:

“We made that decision in terms of the airline business. We took money out of the business basically even at a substantial loss,” Buffett said. “We will not fund a company that — where we think that it is going to chew up money in the future.”

Many thanks to Erica Alini at Global News for including quotes from me in her latest piece on changing investment strategies amid COVID-19. Here are my own thoughts on the topic of changing investment strategies in a market crash.

I was also pleased to be included in this MoneySense piece by Jonathan Chevreau on whether you should delay retirement due to COVID-19. Again, here are my own thoughts on whether you should postpone retirement due to the pandemic.

Another MoneySense article looks at how the coronavirus pandemic could change the way we think about retirement in Canada.

I enjoyed this video by Millionaire Teacher Andrew Hallam where he explains how difficult it is to pick winning individual stocks:

Michael Batnick explains the catalyst behind the stock market wrapping up its best month in more than 30 years:

“Stocks aren’t rallying because of terrible numbers. They fell in anticipation of them. For the last few weeks they’ve been rising in anticipation of the recovery.”

My Own Advisor Mark Seed teams up with fee-for-service planner Owen Winkelmolen on the following case study: spend more or retire earlier in this bullet-proof retirement plan.

Dale Roberts at Cut the Crap Investing weighs-in on reports that robo-advisors are thriving in this market downturn.

Michael James looks into another emotional reason why people seem to want to take CPP early.

Group RESP customers are typically locked into monthly payments that are difficult to reduce or postpone. FAIR Canada is calling on security regulators to assist group RESP subscribers who may be unable to make their scheduled payments.

Earn Altitude Prestige status without flying? That’s exactly what Aeroplan and Air Canada are offering right now in this must-see promotion for wannabe frequent flyers.

Finally, many Canadians have turned to meal kit delivery services to help cook from home and limit trips to the grocery store. Kyle Prevost at Million Dollar Journey reviews one of these services – Hello Fresh – and looks at the cost of meal kits.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone!

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12 Comments

  1. Natalie on May 3, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    What a pain! I read on Lifehacker that they ship to your house to see if the credit card works.

    • Andrew on May 3, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      Would love to know how you reached a human at Amazon. They don’t currently answer calls and there’s no way to send e-mail or submit forms on their site anymore.

      • Robb Engen on May 3, 2020 at 2:15 pm

        Hi Andrew, well it’s not intuitive at all but I was able to chat with an associate online by following these steps:

        Go to Amazon.ca, scroll all the way down to the bottom and click on ‘Customer Service’ (under the header, Let Us Help You).

        Then I scrolled down to Browse Help Topics, hovered over “Manage Your Account”, and clicked on ‘Cancel Items or Orders’.

        On the left-hand side under “Manage Your Account” you’ll see ‘Contact Us’ at the very bottom. Click that link.

        In the new window you’ll see a yellow “Contact Us” button. From there I was able to click on a “Chat” window and connect with an agent.

        They don’t make it easy.

        • Andrew on May 3, 2020 at 3:39 pm

          Thanks Robb! I will give that a try.

    • Robb Engen on May 3, 2020 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Natalie, that’s interesting. Then I wonder why they didn’t order something much cheaper? I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

  2. Janice Chung on May 3, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve bookmarked this article because I am always concerned about fraud, especially when it comes to one’s identity and credit cards. While I do everything possible to prevent fraud from happening, especially when travelling, I still ran into problems.

    I notified all my financial institutions and credit cards to say I’d be in France for 2 months. Unfortunately, not only was I double-charged for a withdrawal (when I used my Tangerine debit card), but Scotiabank cancelled my credit card in error a few days before I was to head home. I was told the fraud department made a mistake.

    It added enormous stress to my trip and I wrote about it in my blog, to help others. Thank you to Robb for allowing me to add the link to the article. https://www.francetraveltips.com/credit-and-debit-card-problems-in-france/

  3. Cheryl on May 3, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    That’s a bit odd that the thief would steal a credit card number, and use your wife’s name and address to ship the watch to.

    It’s a good idea to add your credit cards to your Amazon account, whether you actually use it for payment or not. I’d received a credit card a few months earlier just to use when I’m traveling, but I also put it on my Amazon account, planned to use it occasionally to keep it active, but it’s not my primary card. Amazon phoned me to verify I’d made a purchase with that credit card because a new account had been opened. I’m a little foggy on whose name the account was under, mine or someone else’s. But it flagged a duplicate credit card number and that was why Amazon phoned to verify I’d authorized my credit card to be used on this newly created account. Then I spent the next hour on the phone with my credit card company’s security department, cancelling the card, and getting a new one issued.

    Good going Amazon being on the ball with fast action on fraud. But they can only do that if you’ve got your credit card added to your account there. You don’t want to be the second guy to add your credit card number to an Amazon account!

  4. Mike on May 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    “I check my credit card statements often and yesterday noticed a charge of $500+ from Amazon.ca that was linked to my wife’s card number. ” Often is not good enough!!! Neither is waiting for your monthly statement… I have a Master Card and a VISA card and get an instant notification of all transactions on my cards. _ They are automatically sent to me by e-mail. This is a free service (offered by the banks). I find it handy to be able to flag (in a timely manner) any unusual activity on my credit cards. In addition, it’s also very useful when traveling overseas …

    • Robb Engen on May 3, 2020 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Mike, by often I mean checking every day or so online.

  5. Shaz on May 3, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    The problem with any financial fraud is because banks and the Canadian Internet service providers these days protect the fraudsters and companies (in the reason of privacy) who call you that you have a immigration liability. I recently had a conversation with one of the credit unions on that. Basically its free money to attempt and 0 chance to get caught for fraudsters or group in this business. Until there is a legislation to catch these fraudsters this will not be a news. So I would say bug your MP to push this in federal parliament. I feel probably banks doesn’t have time and money to run behind a 100,000 fraud or something. They will just credit it back to those accounts who gets affected until someone hacks out 100 million worth of fraud.

  6. Norm Thibodeau on May 4, 2020 at 7:27 am

    What a pain indeed! I’ve had my Visa card compromised 3 times so far. VISA took the fraudulent charge off the account. The most irritating part is when the new card is issued, all the auto payments I have coming off the card each month have to be contacted and given the new card info. Small price to pay I guess but still a pain. Is a lower limit card for e purchases a good idea assuming that this is where the fraudsters are doing their work? I hate the idea of having more than one credit card to keep track of. Keep up the good work Robb!

  7. GYM on May 5, 2020 at 12:33 am

    Geez, thankfully you were able to fix it and catch it quickly.

    My Amazon account got hacked and I was worried about my credit cards that were ‘saved’ on the account and I also had Amazon gift cards loaded on the account. I managed to actually speak to an Amazon human and they were helpful.

    Congrats on the hot tub purchase, would love to see a pic blogging/ computer near the hot tub (not in the water of course) like how this notorious US based PF blogger often does 😉

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