Monday, November 29, 2004

November: Steal from Lynn Month

I am glad that November is almost over, for it seemed that in November, people were happily stealing from me without my knowledge left and right.

Last Friday, I got my credit card bill, and was shocked to see that the total was almost $4,000. Since moving to Japan, I have adopted the local way of carrying wads of cash in my wallet because a lot of places don’t take credit cards, so it’s extremely unusual for my monthly bill to be over $2,000. Something must be wrong.

Upon further inspection, I realized that out of the twelve transactions, only five were mine, totaling to approximately $700. The rest of the purchases had been made at various jewelry shops and department stores in Ginza, an area I seldom go to. Since the card (an only copy) has been in my wallet the entire time, someone must have gotten the information electronically and made a fake card. I just couldn’t believe it happened to me.

Credit card theft must not be very common in Japan, because when I called to report the incident, the girl on the other end of the line was completely clueless as to what to do. She didn’t understand why I asked her to read me transactions posted after the statement date and said she had to check with someone when I asked her to terminate this card. When that someone, presumably more experienced, called back, he asked whether I want my new card to be issued with the same card number. Duh! Does he even understand the entire reasoning behind having a new card issued?!

All in all, this thief used my card to buy electronic goods, pay for taxi fare, buy clothes, jewelry and who knows what else, and he/she is probably going to get away with it. Japanese sales clerks are so courteous that when this card is declined at the register with big “stolen card” flashing on screen, they will probably politely ask the thief if he/she has any other means of payment, losing the only chance to report the thief to the police. Then again, the police in Japan are equally impotent, so I guess the only outcome I can hope for is to have the charges revoked. I also made a decision to keep every credit card receipt from now on and diligently check every credit card statement. Maybe it’s time to dust off the trusty Quicken software again.


Rachel said...

Oh Lynn, that is absolutely horrible. I'm so sorry. Something similar happened to me with a debit card, while I was in Iowa. And, well, not to put Iowan banks down, but they were absolutely no help at all. In fact, what become a horrifying discovery only grew worse when they tried to suggest I had faked the whole incident so that I could claim for the loss. I felt so helpless and there was no one willing to help.

Could you possibly try to contact an American branch of your credit card? Or is this a Japanese credit card?

It's this sort of occurrence that makes me so scared to shop online, no matter how many times a site reassures you about their security and all that.

Lynn said...

Unfortunately, it's a Japanese credit card, and I am not at all sure what kind of policy it has on disputed charges. But I do know I am not paying for somebody else's ABC Mart $600 charge. What did he buy? Half a dozen sneakers?

Hsin said...

Hope it resolves itself soon and you don't have to pay the ridiculous bill. You can't be the first one to have this happen to you, so I'm surprised the card company was so useless at dealing with the situation.

I have to say that Citibank did a great job when I needed to cancel my card on the suspicion that someone was going to attempt fraud. I was quite silly actually - made a room reservation at a dodgy hotel in San Francisco and promptly provided the dodgy phone receiptionist with way too much information about my card (including some security number at the back). Had to cancel it when it dawned on me 5 minutes later that I had given away enough information for them to use my card online. At least Citi was very professional about it and even called me back to check all the recent charges (without me asking).

Lynn said...

The level of vigilance is just not there yet for Japanese credit cards. It's so hard for them to comprehend that, yes, sometimes people do steal. Hopefully, since it's a pretty big company (AEON), they have proper insurance so they don't feel the need to screw me.