Very scary: a thief activated my credit card, then used it.

I’ve been having very bad luck with theft lately. First someone stole a $500 Hyatt gift card from my mailbox, then someone else stole Josh’s work bag from in front of our house, and now this:

A couple of weeks ago, I applied for the Hyatt Visa card. As of today, it still hadn’t arrived, so I decided to call and check on its whereabouts. Before I called, I pulled up my account information online, and was stunned to see that there were already several charges on the account!

Chase immediately closed my account. However, it turns out that this was not a good move. This is because – as I learned after a second phone call – as soon as an account has been closed, Chase is not easily able to determine how the card was activated. The rep I spoke to informed me that it could take “days, months, or even YEARS” to figure out exactly how it happened. (Yes, he really said years.)

The only thing Chase could now see was when the card had been activated, and that the thief did not have the correct Social Security number when he/she called to activate it.

Yep, you read that right. Even though someone completely flubbed a MAJOR security question, he or she was able to activate the card.

Whoa.

I did some research online – was this a thing? – and learned the surprising truth, which is that this is not an infrequent situation. Also, I learned that you can often use a credit card BEFORE it is activated. If the purchases are small enough, and there isn’t a huge flood of them, often they will go through even if you have not called to activate the card.

Scary, no?

Comments

  1. Maybe it is time to move?

    • Points Pixie says:

      Greg – Yes. The crazy thing is that we live in a “fancy” neighborhood – but it’s super urban. We’ve got more thefts than the rest of the city because people come to our neighborhood specifically to take things!

  2. WTH. The banks are obviously run by morons.

  3. laurapdx says:

    I don’t understand how they can make charges before it even arrives and is activated? I always hate the “long” time between getting approved for a new card and its’ final arrival date (sometimes up to 2 weeks later), so I can get started on my spend requirements. I have to assume someone is fishing for numbers that might work and scores. It does seem as though all bank cards are getting compromised more often, as my husband had two different ones “used” in Mexico last month, while he was in the UK!! (and his cards were in his sock drawer).

  4. I had an old Capital One card that I never activated and kept in a file. It was used to mail order something in Oklahoma, very far from my address. I never understood how a thief could do this when I thought I couldn’t yet have used the card myself. You have cleared this up. Although it is still a mystery how someone got hold of a never-used card’s number. Thanks.

  5. I also had a problem w/ my Hyatt Visa. I got the card, used it *once* on Hyatt.com to make a reservation, and then *once* in person at that Hyatt hotel (at checkin). Shortly after that, I got a bunch of fraudulent charges.

    I called the hotel, because I was pretty convinced that the check-in agent must have skimmed the card. Of course they did nothing…

  6. Marilyn B says:

    Kendra,
    Ouch! I kind of agree with the comment that thieves may be trying random numbers in the hopes of something working.
    Years ago, my husband’s Chase ATM card (which he had NEVER used and sat in the drawer) was used for a charge. In the past 8 months both my Chase CSP and my new Chase IHG were used in South America – never been there.
    It is certainly unnerving.
    As I mentioned to you in a comment after Josh’s bag was stolen, I pay for monitoring because my Soc. Sec. number was stolen about 3-4 years, and it can be a real pain just applying for new credit cards. Sometimes I wish it was just a credit card stolen, because those can be shut down. Your Soc. Sec # is unchangeable, and can be used in so many ways that can go undetected until you get a bill or collection notice.
    Hope you don’t have major problems going forward.
    All the best.
    Marilyn B

    • Points Pixie says:

      Marilyn B – I agree with the random number idea as well. One of the Chase employees I spoke to indicated that this method “sometimes” works. Yikes.

      I have also started paying for monitoring. WORTH IT.

  7. You might want to consider postal employees as the problem, especially since it appears that a gift card and credit card were stolen from your box. I have had numerous problems where postal employees were stealing mail and packages and in one case I even caught her red handed. Unfortunately, even though I have spoken to managers and filed complaints with the postal inspectors (USPS police), I can’ get anything done. Some of the theft has even occurred in the post office where I have a post office box. I have never even been able to get a return phone call from the inspectors. It just sounds suspicious with two things missing from your box.

    • Points Pixie says:

      CarlH – Wow, that is terrible! In my situation, the items were actually sent to two different addresses (one work, one home), so unless the Postal theft problem is really widespread (!) the culprits are likely mailbox trollers.

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