Closings and delays

Thief uses Kernersville woman’s debit card account to make $1,270 purchase

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KERNERSVILLE, N.C. -- You’re at home and you get a text message from your bank saying someone is using your debit card to make a $1,270 purchase!

That’s what happened to Wanda Speer in Kernersville. She told FOX8, “They were asking me to approve a charge that went through for $1270 at Lowes. Of course, I said no!”

She wasn’t at the store and she hadn’t made a purchase. She says, “I had the card. I had not lost the card. No one had stolen the card and I don’t know how they did it because it was in Greenville, S.C.”

Speer had to file an affidavit saying she didn’t make the purchase. It took the credit union three days, but the money was put back into her checking account.

She says, “The thing that is so frustrating is that the charge had already gone through.” Even though she got that fraud alert. Even so, make sure you have fraud alerts on your bank accounts and credit cards. At the very least, you’ll be notified quickly if there’s a problem.

Tom Luzon, the director of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Greensboro says take it one step further. Freeze your credit. He says, “Nobody can doing anything with it under a credit freeze.”

You will need to contact Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Ask for a credit freeze. This prevents anyone, including you, from opening a new account in your name. Don’t worry. It is not permanent. Luzon says, “When you need to do something you can unfreeze it do the new account and freeze it again.”

It takes some extra effort, but consumer experts who work with identity theft victims say it’s worth it! Luzon says, “It’s a lot easier to be proactive than reactive.”

You’ll still need to monitor your current accounts closely and that’s what Speer is doing. She told FOX8, “Make sure it doesn’t happen again. The crooks are so smart these days and they have ways.”

You also have ways to protect yourself. If you want to freeze your credit, the FTC provides this information for the three credit agencies:

Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:

• Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
• Experian — 1 888 397 3742
• TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872

You'll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live but commonly range from $5 to $10.

After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.