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  1. #1

    Default Stolen Credit Card Information

    Just an FYI for anyone on the southern portion of the AT this hiking season - I just got into Hot Springs (hiking from Springer) and my credit/debit card was declined.

    After calling my bank I was able to get a fraudulent charge reversed (charge was from a Walmart in Georgia while I was in the middle of the woods) and a new card sent out, I'm having it sent up to Erwin, TN to pick it up in a few days.

    The reason I'm posting this is because I've met a handful of other hikers who have also had their card information stolen while out here on the trail and had to go through the rigmarole of canceling a card and having a new one sent out. We can't say for sure if it is a business/hostel along the trail that is doing this, but there's definitely a trend out here right now of this happening to hikers for some reason.

    If it wasn't for some fellow hikers I've met along the way I'd be stranded in Hot Springs with no means of access to funds for a few days. I've borrowed cash for town services and groceries from them and paid them back immediately online using PayPal, which has worked well.

    Again, merely a heads up for the community. Maybe as a precaution bring an extra card hat you don't use, or a check or two just in case.

    I wish everyone the best, and happy trails.

  2. #2

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    Thanks for the heads up/reminder.
    Last edited by Puddlefish; 03-30-2016 at 12:01.

  3. #3
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Cash is king.
    Lonehiker

  4. #4
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Lightbulb What I do

    I carry a pre-paid and recharge-able "credit" card with only enough money on it for my needs until I'm able to add to its value. If a crook gets this card, s/he will only be able to use for the amount I put on it. If I cancel it, then s/he'll be stuck with nothing but a 16-digit number.

    Related to this, let me share another potential source of grief. Until last year, my wife & I had used a joint credit account with HSBC for over thirty years, with myself listed as owner and she as an authorized user. Out of the blue, HSBC started putting a hold on our card for purchases like $25 for gasoline at a station two miles from our house -- meaning the card was placed on hold about every week. When my wife found the card was (AGAIN!!) put on hold, she immediately phoned HSBC and tried to get them to unfreeze the account. Their response was that only the owner could do that! If I had been on The Trail that week, she'd have been without any credit card until I could get to a phone and speak with HSBC for about 20 minutes.
    Our response was two-fold: (1) we cancelled our account after 30 years with HSBC and (2) we made certain we each had a card for which one of us is the owner and the spouse is the authorized user. This means we don't have to worry about our card being placed on hold, my not even being aware of the fact due to being on The Trail, and my spouse being unable to unfreeze it. Two accounts are better than one!

  5. #5
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Man, I feel ya. We get our main card canceled for fraud at least once a year, sometimes more often, and it always seems to happen right when we go on vacation or a hike or whatever. The morning we were leaving for our LT thru our main card was canceled, and there was no place to mail a replacement.

    I finally got a second card as a backup, and now I carry a few hundred in cash so I can get home in an emergency. But it's still a royal PITA. Good luck.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  6. #6

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    Someone in London, England tried to use my card to make a fast food purchase. It was easy to call the bank and cancel the card. The hard part was filling the craving I had for fish and chips afterwards! Ha!

    On a serious note.... Cash is king, or travelers checks. It's easy to use a bank ATM and get enough cash to last you awhile. I also carry a backup credit card, with a zero balance - to be used only in emergency, in case I need to cancel the Debit card and wait on a new one.

    It's not just places along the trail that folks are stealing this information, sadly noted....

  7. #7
    Rain Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenBear View Post
    Two accounts are better than one!
    IF they are at separate faceless financial conglomerates. Never have all your financial eggs in one basket.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

    www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker

    .

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by hubcap View Post
    On a serious note.... Cash is king, or travelers checks.
    I haven't used a travelers check in over 30 years. I've read that fewer and fewer places accept them, or even know what they are. Has anyone out there had recent experience with travelers checks, particularly along the trail?

  9. #9

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    The last time I asked for travelers checks, maybe 3 or 4 years ago, some of the bank tellers had never heard of them and didn't know how to issue them. The manager, somewhat older, said nobody had requested them in a long time and told me that they were being phased out. Sigh. They were such a staple of my salad-days travel.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdelljr View Post
    I haven't used a travelers check in over 30 years. I've read that fewer and fewer places accept them, or even know what they are. Has anyone out there had recent experience with travelers checks, particularly along the trail?
    I gave up using travelers checks some time ago. The last I used them down south I had a hard time convincing cashiers that they were indeed money. I even had to argue with the head of a bank in Erwin (which sold travelers checks) to exchange them for cash. In the end they charged me to do that! The only business which didn't seem to have a problem with them were hotels. I still have a $20 check I should turn in for cash.

    A lot of credit cards will be put on hold if you use them out of your normal area. If all of a sudden charges start showing up far from your home, that can trigger the suspicious activity monitors. Notify the card company your traveling so that doesn't happen.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  11. #11

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    Yes, and notify your debit-card issuer as well before you leave. Tell them the states you will be in and the time frame, and you won't have problems. Of course, keep their numbers handy (in a notebook and on your phone) in case a problem arises.

  12. #12

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    If you (or other hkers) used a credit card to pay for a meal at a restaurant, It's a good chance that is where your card information was obtained. There's a worldwide ring of thieves who have concentrated on the restaurant industry.

    Well before I got involved (as an employee) with companies involved in tracking fraud, one of my credit cards was used by the ring of restaurant theives within minutes of me leaving a well-known restaurant chain. I had the time way back then to chase this down (after calling and cancelling the card) and after many hours of invested time, I ended up talking to someone in upper management of a restaurant chain. I received a brief, over the telephone education on how the ring of thieves works. It's a pretty clever operation. If you're runnng a restaurant chain, that ring of thieves is just about undefeatable.

    When I took my first job in a line of work that defenses against fraud, I got a big lesson on how the world works and what is being done to thwart organized thievery. Someday I might write a book about it but for now, it's sufficient to say you should never use a credit/debit card in a restaurant again.

    On my northbound AT thru-hike, there was quite a bit of physical thievery going on -- way more than I had expected even though I had been advised ahead of time that thievery was happening on the AT. After all, the AT is a microcosm of Society. Most of the thievery was the taking of backpacks when naive hikers would leave their backpacks unattended out in front of a store, unattended at Trail Days or didn't provide a deterrent when heading into say a Shenandoah Wayside where backpacks might not be permitted.


    Datto

  13. #13
    Registered User AlyontheAT2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datto View Post
    If you (or other hkers) used a credit card to pay for a meal at a restaurant, It's a good chance that is where your card information was obtained. There's a worldwide ring of thieves who have concentrated on the restaurant industry.

    Well before I got involved (as an employee) with companies involved in tracking fraud, one of my credit cards was used by the ring of restaurant theives within minutes of me leaving a well-known restaurant chain. I had the time way back then to chase this down (after calling and cancelling the card) and after many hours of invested time, I ended up talking to someone in upper management of a restaurant chain. I received a brief, over the telephone education on how the ring of thieves works. It's a pretty clever operation. If you're runnng a restaurant chain, that ring of thieves is just about undefeatable.

    When I took my first job in a line of work that defenses against fraud, I got a big lesson on how the world works and what is being done to thwart organized thievery. Someday I might write a book about it but for now, it's sufficient to say you should never use a credit/debit card in a restaurant again.

    On my northbound AT thru-hike, there was quite a bit of physical thievery going on -- way more than I had expected even though I had been advised ahead of time that thievery was happening on the AT. After all, the AT is a microcosm of Society. Most of the thievery was the taking of backpacks when naive hikers would leave their backpacks unattended out in front of a store, unattended at Trail Days or didn't provide a deterrent when heading into say a Shenandoah Wayside where backpacks might not be permitted.


    Datto
    Fascinating. So what can we as hikers do to prevent ourselves from falling victim to this?
    AT '16: 1,378 miles GA-NY

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  14. #14

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    If someone is a victim of fraud (credit card particularly or other types of fraud) all the major financial institutions in the world will likely know about it within a few milliseconds (assuming they're paying attention and their staff and computers aren't already so swamped with incidents that they're calloused to your particular nobody situation). Pretty much every financial transaction that wasn't cash that you have made for the past twenty years (or more depending upon who you are) is already centralized, searchable and made widely available to financial institutions -- provided using massive amounts of computing power at the source. Revenue growth of these very few under-the-radar private companies is well over 50% per year and heading soon to exponential growth due to the high demand of such information (from other types of private industries and lettered federal government agencies).

    When you choose to use a credit card or get a loan at a financial institution you give up all of that private information you thought no one knew about or could deduce. That is the price you pay for convenience and not have to carry around a wad of cash. If you get known to be doing business with wads of cash, it is likely you're going to be flagged and put on The List.

    Nixon was an amateur.


    Datto

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlyontheAT2016 View Post
    Fascinating. So what can we as hikers do to prevent ourselves from falling victim to this?
    These have been my suggesions (amended and updated for my current knowledge and opinion) for how AT hikers can take security precautions, defend against thievery and the like:


    1) Always pay cash in a restarant (no matter the brand of restaurant) -- never use a credit card or a debit card in any restaurant -- on the AT or anywhere. Outside of the AT, be particularly cautious when using a card between November 1st and January 15th of every year.

    2) If you have a choice, use an ATM from a major financial institution rather than a no-name ATM the shop owner has setup for themself.

    3) Regularly get cash from a major financial institution ATM rather than carry around say a thousand dollars in cash in your backpack or in your pocket.

    4) Pay cash for everything you can along the AT rather than using a credit card. Note that some credit card companies (Capital One for instance) may disable your card if their algorithms show you're outside your home turf (you can call them ahead of time to tell them you're not going to be in your home turf but that word never seems to get to the people who are in-charge of flagging accounts for fraud (particularly say, if you were on the CDT and anywhere near New Mexico or on the PCT in Oregon which are two hotbeds of fraud).

    5) Never leave your backpack unattended outside a shop along the AT -- someone could come along in a pickup truck and easily take it. The scheme is a two-person operation where a pickup truck drives up to the storefront, a guy jumps out on the fly from the passenger side of the truck and in one fell swoop grabs all the backpacks and heaves them into the back bed of the pickup truck and then on the fly jumps back into the still moving pickup truck and off they go.

    6) Buy a 4oz bicycle chain for your AT hike -- when coming to a Shenandoah Wayside or to a store where backpacks can't be taken inside (wear your backpack inside if you can), wrap the bicycle chain in and around several places on your backpack before locking the backpack with the bike chain to a secure post or similar where you can keep an eye on your pack from inside if possible. This won't prevent a determineed theif from taking your backpack (pretty much nothing will do that) but you're only trying to create a deterrent. That will likely be enough of a deterrent and the thief will move along to the next target.

    7) Obtain multiple bank cards associated with your checking account (pressure your bank if they refused to provide multiple cards for your checking account). Use only a single card for Internet purchases and use a different card for in-store in-person purchases. That way, if one of the cards gets flagged (rightly or wrongly) you still have easy access to the funds in your bank account until the replacement card arrives (where you would have that replacement card sent -- ha, that's another matter).

    8) Physical security -- as I've said elsewhere, the AT is a very safe place to be if you're an AT thru-hiker and hiking in the bubble. As far as bears and the like, I am more worried about rabid attorneys than I ever was of bears (I never had a bear jump across the top of a conference room table and try to choke me with my tie). There's a joke in thru-hiking circles -- Q: How does a thru-hiker win a fist fight? A: They make the other guy chase 'em up a hill. On my AT thru-hike I did run into some "shifty dues" (as someone else has termed them) but no more so than you might run into shifty dues walking down the sidewalk of a medium-sized midwestern city. Keep in mind that along the AT, you are going to run into WAY more people impersonating an AT thru-hiker than you will find legit AT thru-hikers. I did have more problems with someone (not a thru-hiker) letting their honking huge dog Buffy run loose unattended on the AT. Had a few dog attacks I had to fend off (one attack was even when I was lookng directly at the dog owner while the dog was viciously attacking me -- the dog owner just kept talking and laughing with their day-hiking companion as if nothing was happening -- after giving the dog owner five seconds to do something I had to discipline the dog so the dog woud think twice about attacking a hiker again).Buy the way, with dog attacks, that's what your pointy hiking poles are for (among other things). After you've been hiking for a few hundred miles using hiking poles, the poles become an extension of your body and you become very deft with their use. For me, the only dogs I've ever owned since I was a teenager were Doberman Pinschers so handling a charging Buffy on the AT during my AT thru-hike wasn't a problem for me.

    9) Be particularly cautious (and polite for that matter) when you reach Damascus, VA during Trail Days. There are so many hikers who are camping and thinking their valuables are safe unattended inside their tent it's a gold mine for thieves. There was quiet a bit of thievery when I came through for Trail Days on my AT thru-hike. I actually met and overheard a conversation in Thomas Knob shelter from one of the thieves who was trying to impress a girl in the shelter. No I didn't give him The Buffy Treament -- I was trying to lead the simple life on my AT thru-hike.


    Datto

  16. #16

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    Capital One has never once questioned a travel transaction for me. My credit union likewise.

  17. #17

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    Ha, that would be "shifty dudes". Shifty dues is an entirely different matter (like when I was forced to join the United Steelworkers and the net from of my first paycheck out of high school evaporated -- "and who is this FICA guy? Why does he need so much money?" I asked my mom this while my dad was sitting in his chair in the living room.

    Geez I was such good entertainment for my mom and dad. It must have taken at least a half hour for my mom and dad to get ther breath back from laughing so hard before they responded back to me with a straight answer.


    Datto

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlefish View Post
    Capital One has never once questioned a travel transaction for me. My credit union likewise.
    Let me take care of that for you then.


    Datto

  19. #19
    Infinity buzz48843's Avatar
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    I am traveling to Peru and learned about a "Travelers Debit Card" - now used instead of traveler's checks. You can put whatever amount you want on it and add as needed. It can be used like a credit card or at an ATM. I definitely will use it next time I am on the AT!
    Infinity
    Some of life's greatest lessons cannot be pried from books--they must be experienced in your bones.
    Kobi Yamada

  20. #20
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    Using a credit card isn't as bad. You're not responsible for CC purchases you didn't make. Debit cards take a lot longer to flesh out and you can easily have your account wiped and be without financial means until the bank sorts it out. The protections just aren't there for debit cards that are in place for credit cards.

    That said, an interesting tidbit. A year or so back when Apple Pay started Apple was being pressed hard about fraudulent cards in their system. You'll recall the big Target breach and others. Well many of those cards were still in use in Apple's system because, as it turns out, many of the banks felt that it was far too cumbersome to disable every single credit card number that was breached and felt the calculated risk if simply waiting to do them when requested was more financially viable. As a result, the numbers were still in circulation and still in use. Apple took a publicity hit because fraudulent cards were being used on Apple ID's. Nothing much they or any other company could do until a customer actually cancelled the card.

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