When it comes to money and my personal information, I am so not ‘chill’. Unfortunately, I was recently the victim of credit card fraud, and you can bet I went into full blown meltdown. But it really wasn’t as terrible as it sounds, so I wanted to write about my experience to put your mind at ease if it ever happens to you.

My credit card fraud experience started on a Thursday evening. I was supposed to be going to the gym, but I had come home straight from work instead. I’m an obsessive email checker, and in this situation it was extremely lucky I am.

Just before I started to sort something out for dinner, I took out my phone, and logged into my email account. I found I’d been flooded by hundreds and hundreds of emails. I was baffled, and scared, I refreshed my account and I was receiving about 20 emails a minute. Freaking out, I knew this was absolutely fishy so I started going back over the hundreds of emails I had to check for anything important.

At this point I’d received over 1000 emails, but I scrolled through looking for any of significance. Most of them were me being signed up for bogus newsletters. Frustratingly the first thing I jumped to the conclusion of was my blog – I’d just been updating my ‘contact’ page information a few days beforehand. So much of my life was on the internet (and still is) and in that moment I hated myself for it. My heart sank when I saw an Airbnb reservation email.

The hacker had logged into my account, and booked an expensive stay in France for two nights, beginning that evening. I suppose they do this in the hope that the person won’t check their emails or accounts for a few days but, unluckily for them, I’m annoyingly on the ball and I found the confirmation email less than an hour after they’d booked it. I immediately logged into my Airbnb account and cancelled the booking, stating as the reason ‘My account was hacked and this is a fraudulent booking’. Hosts set their cancellation policies, and this particular host charged the full amount if you cancelled the booking on the day of arrival. It totalled over £600.

My next step was to change my password, and ring Airbnb. Airbnb are one of those companies who are everywhere online but notoriously difficult to get on the phone. I had to trawl the forums to find a contact phone number, but I eventually did. Once I got through they told me it had been flagged as fraud, I would 100% be getting a refund and it was all under control. I felt a little better, so once I hung up I calmly phoned my bank.

The bank went through all of my purchase history with me so I could check there were no other fraudulent purchases, and they cancelled my card and online banking account. They advised at this point it was better to wait for Airbnb to issues a refund (which is hindsight is complete crap and I should have requested the refund from them there and then!). There was nothing else I could do at that point so I calmed down in the knowledge I would be getting my money back, for sure.

I then went through every account I have, and deleted all of my card details out where I could. I changed my password for everything. I’m an idiot, and was so lucky – I was using practically the same password for most of my accounts. So that was it – panic over. But my credit card fraud experience didn’t quite stop there.

About two weeks after the incident I was travelling with work – sat in Birmingham Airport, I needed to phone my bank to tell them I would be abroad. I had not heard a peep from Airbnb, I had phoned them the evening before and they told me they couldn’t get hold of my ‘case manager’. I was mad, and there was a £600 purchase sitting on my bank statement, so I decided I needed to take it through the bank instead.

When I phoned up Halifax, they couldn’t have been any more helpful. He asked me a series of questions about the incident, and he could see I’d already phoned up about it and had my cards cancelled. The resolution of the conversation was that I would receive a full refund from Halifax within 24 hours. And I did.

The flood of spam emails I was receiving slowly dwindled as I marked them as junk. I still get a few persistent ones each day now. The remnants of the experience are fading away and a few life lessons have been learnt. Oh, and Airbnb emailed me a month and a half later to say they were issuing my refund – a ridiculously long wait had I not claimed it through my bank instead.

Having gone through it myself, here are a few tips from me:

  • Don’t panic, it can all be resolved through your bank
  • Don’t ever use your debit card online. You don’t have as much protection. If you have to, only use it through PayPal
  • Keep different passwords for all of your accounts, using combinations of numbers and letters
  • Stay vigilant with your emails and check them daily
  • Delete card information from places like Amazon once you’ve made a purchase
  • Don’t rely on online only companies such as Airbnb to refund you quickly. They won’t. Don’t chase them – get your refund through your bank and then the bank has to do the chasing

Have you ever had a similar experience?

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