Credit cards

A while back, someone broke into my daughter’s car and stole a credit card she kept in there. The thief then attempted to use it, multiple times, to buy big-ticket items at Walmart as well as at various ATMs around town.

He must have forgotten that ATMs have frontal-face cameras, or that Walmart was stalking his every step. In any case, within hours of the police posting his picture on social media, he was toast.

Compromised credit cards are nothing new for me and my husband, Tim, since we rarely carry cash and depend on our card for payment. Odds are pretty good that crooks are going to access that number now and then.

Since we are not held responsible for anything a thief purchases, compromised credit cards are nothing that will keep us awake at night. It’s just a pain to go through the reporting process and be issued a new card.

One time the bank thought our card was compromised when it wasn’t. It was a weird coincidence when Tim stopped to purchase gas when I was doing the same thing at a different station a few miles away. We both inserted our cards into the pump readers at the same time and it set off an alarm with Chase Bank. They immediately shut down our account. We were both left standing beside our vehicles, nozzles in hand, wondering what in the heck was going on?

Chase Bank was mistaken that time but erred on the side of caution, and we didn’t mind because usually they’re spot-on when they suspect mischief is in play. One day, a fraud agent called to ask if we had just made a series of purchases in North Carolina. We told him neither we, nor our cards, were in the Tar Heel State.

That particular incident was part of a massive credit card identity-theft ring that resulted in the culprits being convicted and sentenced to serve time at a federal prison in Colorado. We received a letter from the government’s prosecutor letting us know that, as one of the 135 victims, we had the right to request notification when the thieves were scheduled for release.

 We passed on the offer, but not before I envisioned a hard-core, muscle-bound criminal doing sit-ups in his cell while glaring at our picture taped to his wall. (“I’m coming for you, Tim and Donna Barton!”)

That reminds me of the most interesting, and amusing, time our credit card was compromised. I was reviewing purchases on the monthly statement when I noticed a series of fraudulent transactions totaling more than a thousand dollars.

I immediately reached for the phone and called Chase Bank. When a representative came on the line, I chided him, asking how it was possible they allowed those transactions to go through. He checked it for himself and then laughed. “I have no idea,” he said. “But rest assured, this card is now being cancelled.”

Four purchases, roughly $300 each, all done at one single location: the Alabama Inmate Canteen.

Now that’s what I call nerve.

Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at