Fraud Alert For Domestic Travel?

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Arthur Frommer is a recognized travel expert.   I have relied on many of the travel books he has published, and I have conducted travel research on his website.    A friend of mine recently alerted me to an article he wrote about the potential for a fraud alert to be triggered by domestic travel.

What?

Everyone should know by now that when you are planning to travel outside of the United States, the smart thing to do is to notify all of your credit cards, as well as your bank when you are traveling and which countries you are scheduled to visit.  My wife and I discovered this five years ago on our honeymoon when, in all of the preparation for our wedding, we forgot to inform our bank.   We had a memorable dinner in Brazil in which we thought we might have to wash dishes to pay for our meal!

I even advise people to include countries where you might just be visiting briefly, including where you are changing planes.    You never know when a flight cancellation or another type of travel disruption will make it necessary to use your card, and that is the worst moment for your account to be placed on hold for a fraud alert.

According to this article, which was syndicated and ran in major newspapers like the Miami Herald, credit card companies may now be suspending accounts due to potential fraud based on domestic travel.   This is the way his victim describes the experience:

Halfway through my recent Florida trip, all three adults suddenly found their credit cards suddenly denied — two Visas and an AMEX card, all from different card issuers. It confused us, until I got a call from the fraud department of my Capital One Visa. Our crime? We were all from Pennsylvania and sought to spend money in Florida.

Is This For Real?

I am extremely skeptical of their conclusion that they had their cards frozen due to a fraud alert strictly because they were from out of state.   I travel all the time and have never had this problem.   The fact that multiple cards were on hold leads me to believe that there was some other reason for the fraud alert.   It seems more likely that all of their cards were used at the same merchant that was associated with some fraud.    Think about this for a second.  If credit card accounts were being frozen for out of state use, there would be complete chaos at major tourist sites.  Nobody would be able to an admission to Disney World or a lift ticket at Vail!   Residents who live on the border of several states, such as in the metropolitan areas of New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, and other major cities would find their accounts frozen just for “travel” a few miles from their house.  This story simply does not pass the most basic smell test.

Paranoia

The Miami Herald version of the Frommer article ends this article with the plea:

Whether or not you agree with my friend’s speculation about the reason for the new policy, it’s clear that we all should now take added precautions before embarking on an out-of-state trip even within the United States. We must call our credit-card issuers and demand that they enter into their computers the fact that we will be in another state during a specified period of time.

It is surprising that such a noted travel expert as Arthur Frommer ran with this story.    It is even more bizarre that this story ran in so many major newspapers.   Consider me the first Credit Card expert to cry foul on this strange column.

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3 Responses to “Fraud Alert For Domestic Travel?”

  1. Susan Says:

    We had that happen to us several years ago. We were in FL (yup, Orlando actually) for vacation and on the 3rd out of state transaction, the account was blocked (it just so happened to be as we were checking in to the hotel). We had to call the bank and confirm we were actually there. They shut the cards down (both of mine) when we didn’t answer the phone at home when they called to verify. It was a worry and an inconvenience but it was in our best interest I suppose. I think it may happen more to people who travel infrequently – an out of state transaction was highly unusual activity for us – for someone who travels all the time, it’s common usage behavior.

  2. Susan Says:

    One more – sorry. :) When we traveled to CA several years after the FL trip, I did call the bank beforehand and notify them of the upcoming travel and we had no issues with the cards being blocked.

  3. SimplyForties Says:

    As a full-time housesitter I spend several months in one state and then several months in another, and so on. I don’t have the “different state” fraud alert problem. I did have a very annoying one this week though. I made three transactions in a row. I got a fraud alert on the 2nd one, which was also the cheapest, for a ticket to an event. I called the fraud line and the computer voice said they’d declined the charge and if it was a legitimate charge I should contact the merchant and, basically, make the purchase again. So I did. I went to the event today and, you guessed it, I had two tickets waiting for me! Clearly my credit card company did not, in fact, decline the charge at all. Good thing it was an inexpensive charge!

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