Some of us make a simple mistake online, and leave ourselves vulnerable to identity thieves. But some people do everything right, and still wind up as innocent victims.
Recently, my teenage nephew got his very first job, which led to his first bank account and debit card. The very day he got the card, he proudly logged in to his iTunes account and used it to sign up for a subscription service. He agreed to pay $9.99 for his first month of access.
The next day — yes, the very next day — his bank called him to let him know there had actually been two transactions charged to his account: the one he approved for around $10, and a second one for almost $60! He had been hacked, through no fault of his own.
While having your account compromised is always a frustrating, scary, and infuriating experience, I think that for him to have this episode at his age was especially maddening. Not only had he just gotten his account and card, which he viewed as kind of a stepping stone to adulthood, but the thieves had attempted to steal a big portion of his very first paycheck.
Having their first job is a great way for teenagers to learn the value of a dollar, and how hard Mom and Dad have worked all these years to provide for them all their lives. Almost having that hard-earned money stolen was also a great lesson for him in how quickly you can lose everything you’ve worked for due to hackers and thieves.
Luckily for my nephew, his bank blocked the transaction, closed that original debit card and got him a brand new card so he wasn’t out any cash. His banker gave him some great advice, too, that everyone can use.
When you’re making a subscription purchase through an online account like iTunes, consider purchasing a prepaid debit card instead of using one that is connected to your bank account. Another option is to purchase a gift card for the service you want to purchase and pay for your subscription, or item, with the gift card instead of connecting your debit card. This way, thieves can only access a limited amount of your cash.
While I wouldn’t wish dealing with this experience on anyone, least of all my nephew, I am glad that he learned this lesson now with a relatively small risk so he can be more careful in the future and save himself some trouble and some money.