Imagine a carefree Saturday at the mall. You’re shopping with friends for something you really need, or maybe it’s just a little retail therapy. Whatever the reason, the shopping and the purchases make for an enjoyable afternoon. In fact, you’re so satisfied you decide to add on dinner afterwards at a nearby restaurant. All in all a great day, until you wake up the next morning and discover a fraudulent purchase on your credit card. Even more disturbing, you realize the waiter at the restaurant was the odds-on criminal.
My mall story is not hypothetical but actual. My family and I went shopping last weekend, and within twenty-four hours of our purchases we were victims of credit card fraud. What is most aggravating to me is the basic chain of events that points to the nefarious waiter at the restaurant where we dined. Why him? Out of a dozen purchases that day, the restaurant was the only location where the credit card transaction took place out of my sight. Instead of the several point-of-sale mall transactions, the restaurant – as is typical – carried my card away alongside the bill, to be processed somewhere out of sight. Also, the fraudulent purchase the following day was made at the department store adjacent to the restaurant. It’s an easy-as-pie theory on what went down.
My experience begs the question: why do credit card companies include all of the critical information right on the card? Write down (or phone-photo) the name of the cardholder, the sixteen-digit card number, the expiration date of the card, and the three-digit “Card Verification Value” (CVV), and you’re all set to assume the purchasing identity of someone else.
Google Authenticator, which sends a verification code to your phone that is required for login to certain apps, creates a secondary level of security that would significantly decrease credit card fraud. At the least, cardholders should be given a piece of data separate from what is printed on the card, so only they have every last piece of the purchasing puzzle.
Fortunately, credit card fraud is an inconvenience instead of an unexpected financial setback. My bank simply reimburses the amount in dispute, cancels the card, and issues me a new one. I can live with that (unless I owned the credit card company). What I can’t live with is the thieves who work the system. Thus did I send a note to the restaurant manager. I did not directly accuse the waiter as I really have no proof. But I did provide enough detail that perhaps the manager will track the activities of his employees a little closer. My hope is that he discovers the criminal among his otherwise trustworthy staff.