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Sense & Sensibility

One Credit Card, Two Cities and a Shopping Cart Going Nowhere

October 8, 2010
By Kathleen Felong

Kathy Felong
Kathy Felong

I was standing in line at a discount department store recently waiting to complete my purchase. A weekend warrior, I was redecorating a bedroom, and my cart overfloweth: a designer quilt stripped of its designer price; a pack of 400-count sheets (that would emerge from the dryer with an equal number of wrinkles); and an oversized hand-embroidered pillow to add the right frou-frou to my guest room.

I was the customer you don’t want to be behind in any checkout line. Unfortunately for my fellow shoppers, it was about to get worse.

As we waited for my credit charge to clear, my cashier got a confused look on his face and asked me to wait. He walked over to a manager, who picked up a phone to call the credit card company. Customers stacked up behind me, heaving sighs, until the manager returned with my card and waved others around me to some newly opened lines.

It wasn’t a good omen.

“Declined,” she said. I began to argue with her. We have great credit, and an ample limit. And I had been using the card all morning I told her.

“Sorry,” she said. “You’ll have to call the company to find out why.”

Double trouble
As I slunk out of the store, it hit me. While I was busily charging myself into home makeover heaven, my husband was several states away helping relocate our son to Atlanta.

And he was using the same credit card—our one and only. Somewhere, a HAL-like computer had detected the incongruity of one card, two cities, multiple purchases—and it thought it caught a whiff of fraud.

I called the company, and got a service rep who confirmed my suspicion. He removed the hold on the card and put a note in the file that explained the familial circumstance.

My embarrassment turned to relief. Not only because my card was restored quickly, but because the fraud detection was there in the first place. I view it like going through airport security—a minor inconvenience that can help keep me safe.

Working in insurance, I know enough about fraud. And, I like to be proactive in protecting what’s mine. That’s why my husband and I added Identity Recovery Coverage to our ERIE homeowner’s policy last year. (By the way, the coverage costs less per year than my frou-frou pillow. Call your ERIE Agent to find out more.)

Once I cleared things up with the credit card rep, he suggested my husband and I get separate cards to avoid adding injury to absence in the future. Then he asked if I would stay on the line to hear about a special offer for identity theft protection.

“No thanks,” I said. “I’ve got that one covered.”

Kathy Felong is an editor for Erie Insurance and a former journalist. She lives in Erie, Pa., and now has a separate credit card and a really nice guest room. E-mail her at

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