GETTING a text message from your bank about a suspicious transaction is never a good way to start the week.
An SMS alerted me that some fool in a boutique hotel in downtown Washington attempted to make a purchase on my behalf on Sunday evening US time — so, Monday morning Australian time.
Perhaps they were trying to shout themselves a nice crisp glass of sauvignon blanc or even hook into a cocktail to celebrate the end of the weekend.
But they weren’t opening their own wallet, instead it was me footing the bill.
Goodness knows how they managed to get their grubby fingers on my bank details but that’s wasn’t where the fun ended.
Next stop was what seems to be some online transactions — three in fact, all within a space of seven minutes, equating to nearly $400.
But thanks to those detectives at my bank it seems this fraudster or fraudsters were stopped dead in their tracks.
An SMS alert within hours of the first suspicious transaction at the boutique hotel was followed by an email from my bank urging me to contact them immediately and confirm if this was me.
They declined the drink at the bar and as for the online transactions they put a stop on my account before these could successfully get through.
How these scammers managed to get their hands on anyone’s card details can sometimes leave the cardholder, like myself, completely baffled.
Australian banks operate elaborate systems to detect any fraudulent transactions and if they notice something a little left of centre they will be likely to get in touch pretty quickly.
If it’s proven the transactions were not made by you, the bank will reimburse your money, but it may take a few weeks before it pops back into your account.
The amount of money fraudsters manage to steal each year is frightening.
Latest figures by the Australian Payments Network — the self-regulatory body for the safety and efficiency of payments systems nationally — shows the rate of fraud on cards is on the incline.
It jumped from $461 million to $534 million in 2016.
While that little chip inside your bank card is working hard to stop counterfeit cards being made, it also means many fraudsters are turning their work to stealing money online.
I can honestly say I always keep my cards close to me and in a safe place at all times and I’ve never even visited the US so how somehow managed to steal my private banking details from the other side of the world remains a mystery.
It pays to keep a close eye on your bank accounts, either by checking them online or even on your smartphone if you have one, to ensure no dodgy transactions are happening without your knowledge.
The banks have a tough job to try and stop these fraudsters and we can help by keeping our own cards and information safe and a close eye on our cash.