Many of you may be aware of the name Credit Karma, I've spoken of them before and extolled their virtues for keeping an eye on what your credit cards are doing to your credit score. It's important to know exactly what happens when you open new cards, close old ones and so forth. The idea was always to know your score, so if you start to harm it, you can either stop your behavior, or change it. There is, however, another benefit to keeping a close eye on your credit score, as I found out a few minutes ago.. catching identity theft.
Yep, I am the guy who has never had a fraudulent charge against any credit or debit card I have ever owned. I have had free credit monitoring for a while, with minimal use to me... but it all came to a head today. First off, this showed me that I had accidentally turned off my credit monitoring service when I moved last time. This was supposed to be switched to a new profile with my new address, but I turned one off, and forgot to turn the other one on... so that was a failure on my part.
Lets dive into how I caught it. Credit Karma is the best in my opinion for one reason alone... it is updated weekly. So I have gotten into the habit of checking my credit score every week after it gets updated. Today I was surprised to see my credit score drop by one point. This didn't make sense to me, I had not opened any new cards. There was no large carry overs of card balances, no missed charges. The list goes on, but sufficed to say, I knew of no reason it should have dropped. So I started to dig.
Credit Karma showed a new inquiry for a Target Credit card. To me these are not worth opening, so I never have, and likely never will open this. Second was the Walmart credit card that was opened in my name. This wasn't right, also didn't open a Walmart credit card, don't even shop there. So I knew at this point with two mistakes, it was likely not the credit companies, but fraud.
I issued a challenge to the credit company. Called Walmart and they did confirm one had been opened. Let me also take this chance to tell Walmart that they suck, it's way to hard to call them and get in contact with the fraud department. Change that please Walmart, thanks. They confirmed a card was opened with a $750 limit, weird since my credit report said $2000 limit, pretty weak if you ask me, my credit deserves a much higher limit than that, even if it wasn't actually me who opened it. There had been over $600 in charges made to the card as well. It is now closed, and flagged in there system.
Next came the hard pull on my credit at Target. I am up late right now writing about this, but Target's fraud department was out for the day, guess crime rests for Target. No worries guys, it's just my identity, I'll take care of it when it's convenient for you, mind asking the criminals to only do this during waking hours, thanks!.... I'll follow up with them in the morning.
So, I've reactivated the credit monitoring. What more can I do? Well, the worst thing is, not much can be done. It's a crappy crime, it's one I likely had no hand in at all, and it sucks. Now I have to keep a close eye on this stuff all the time. I don't know if the OPM breach in the USA government was the source of this, or but the timing seems likely that this was the culprit. So I'd like to tip my hat to the terrible security measures they have taken. I work hard to protect my accounts, and have weathered many data breaches because of those efforts, only to have it lost with something I have 0 control over.
What to do with travel credit cards going forward? Really I'm not sure right now. I'm getting close to nailing down a great trip for almost no cost to South Africa in business class. I don't want to stop doing this, it is just getting good. So for now, I move forward as planned, albeit at a much more cautious pace. My eye will be firmly on my credit report, must keep on top of this. My only fear here is that this will make getting cards all that much harder going forward.
Any wise words on how to handle this an better?
Rocket Scientist, Travel Junkie, and Ruler of the 4th Moon of Omicron Persei 8