Well, it has finally happened: I have become a victim of credit card fraud, to the tune of $1770. I have always staunchly refused to do online banking, in hopes of reducing the risk of such things. So, I have the habit of calling my bank’s automated teller line, every two or three days, to check the balances in my accounts, and to transfer funds as needed.
Last Friday night, I opened the day’s mail to find an overdraft notice showing two debits that I didn’t recognize, totaling over $900, in an account I use only for online purchases and a monthly ministry donation. I quickly dialed the teller line to find that this account was indeed overdrawn, and that even more unauthorized debits had come through since the notice had been sent. Panic-stricken, I immediately called the number on the back of my card, waited impatiently for the options to play, and selected the “Speak to a customer service representative” to report the problem to a live person.
A bank representative patiently worked with me to establish when the unauthorized purchases had begun, and listed each fraudulent charge, along with the name of the merchant or entity. My card was immediately cancelled and listed as lost or stolen in the system, and I was given the number of the bank’s fraud investigations unit to call the next morning (Saturday). The representative said that a new card would be sent out immediately, and that I could pick up a temporary card at my local branch the next day.
That next morning, I called the bank’s investigations unit, went over the list again, and was given a case number. No new charges had come in, and I was assured that the missing funds would be credited to my account within one to three business days. I informed the investigator that I had decided not to risk continuing to use an account that had been compromised, and asked that the card on the way to me be cancelled, since I planned to open a new account at my bank to replace that one. Before the call was completed, the investigator transferred me to an account advisor. We chatted for a few minutes, during which time, I asked that a verbal password be added to my account, as an added layer of security.
Phew! That seemed fairly painless. When I called the bank teller-line the following day, I was upset to find that the representative did not even ask for my new password–some security! Yet, I again had a positive balance, and felt relieved. The bleeding artery had been stopped. But, alas, my troubles were not over.
Later on that third day, my card from a different account was declined in the local grocery store checkout line. Oh, the embarrassment! I felt like I had fraudulently tried to use my own legitimate bank card—or worse—another of my accounts had been hit!
After a skulking trip home for cash, and a sheepish return to the store to pay for the groceries, I dashed to the phone as soon as I returned to the house. What was going on? I dialed the number listed on the back of the bank card, for the customer service line again. That’s when I discovered what I first thought to be an error on the part of the bank’s fraud department. They had apparently cancelled the wrong card. The representative informed me that her supervisor said they could not unlock the card. So, I politely but determinedly, asked to speak to her supervisor myself, hoping to straighten out the mess.
What the supervisor revealed, after informing me that my offending card could not be “unlocked, ” because it had been permanently “cancelled,” shocked me. When he first said that the card had been involved in a fraud alert, I protested that the offending card was a different card belonging to a different account. After some hesitation, he revealed to me that there had been a “third party breach” of credit card information involving this card.
“What do you mean by ‘third party’,” I asked. “A merchant or other entity’s credit files have been compromised,” he explained. “So, we cancelled the cards that were involved.”
Oh. “Exactly when were they going to tell me about that?” I wondered, perturbed. (I really didn’t appreciate finding out in the checkout line where I shop every week!)
The next problem that sprang to my mind was the fact that this account is the one I use to for debits to pay my monthly bills, and, for a brief moment, my OCD mind flipped out. But then, sanity returned and I figured out a reasonable way to tackle what, at first, had seemed like a monumental problem. I would just have to go through my last month’s statement, to see which of my monthly bills come out as card debits, and contact each one individually, to change my billing information. Problem solved. Except for one detail: the replacement card was mailed out ten days ago, and I haven’t yet received it!
Conspiracy theories leapt to mind: What if a postal worker has stolen my new card? What if, whoever was using the numbers from one of my cards, has a way to get to the numbers of the other card, linked to an account where my recent, and rather sizable, income tax refund lies helplessly sitting, just waiting to be pinched?
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ll be intently watching for the mail until my new card arrives. I give them two days or three days from now, and then, I’ll be on the phone again to my bank. And, if I don’t like what I hear, I’ll be transferring all my funds and monthly debits to my credit union. I had been putting that off, since transferring all my monthly bills would have been tedious. But, since I have to do that now anyway, I have no more reasons to procrastinate.
Oops! It turns out the card that I had received promptly in the mail was for the compromised account, not my main account. (I should have read the fine print!) So, I had to get back on the phone with my bank and get that card number associated with the main account. Otherwise, I’d have to change all my monthly bill debits again! Confused? I am!
So now, my only “problem” is that the card with the pretty customized design on it, is the one that I keep at home, and I won’t get to feel as good about flashing my card out when I shop in a store. However,’I can feel better about shopping online with the card that has a palm tree on it! What!