Monday, May 07, 2007

A Scary Debt Card Vacation

As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of banks. As best I can tell, banks charge large fees to let people get at their own money. Sometimes my views get a little less jaundiced. Today was one of those times.

Around lunchtime today, I took a walk to get a sandwich. While I was en route to the sandwich shop, I stopped by the ATM as I was getting a little low on cash. When I put my card into the machine, it told me that it could not help me. I assumed that it was some computer problem and went and got some lunch. After eating, I tried again, with the same result. As there was someone in front of me who had no problem, I figured that there could be an issue.

When I got back to the office I called the bank. After several annoying menus where they tried to entice me into buying all sorts of financial services from them, I managed to get through to a human being. There was indeed a problem with my ATM card, a fraud alert had been called on it. I was passed on to the security people at the bank.

What the security people told me made my blood run cold. Apparently, this morning I had made a purchase of nearly $1000 at some outfit called 'ABC Leather Kingdom' in Florida. This had been followed by another large purchase from a shirt manufacturing place. Fortunately, the bank software thought that the purchases looked suspicious and had cancelled my ATM card. This was why I could not get any money.

To be quite frank, I was aghast! I was also slightly concerned about the kinds of leather goods that might have been purchased in my name. A quick look at the website assured me that I was not forever going to be associated with a cat o' nine tails and some leather studded boxer shorts. That at least was a relief! However, how my card number got to Florida is a mystery to me. I seldom use my debit card other than at the ATM and in my boring local grocery supermarket. I would never use it on-line. Yet, somehow my number was grabbed.

I was also very impressed by the bank software. It had spotted the leather purchase as suspicious. This is amazing. I admit that I am not one to buy many leather goods, but how could it figure out it was not me? I travel quite a bit and end up buying all sorts of odd stuff, yet I have never had a problem.

So, although my bank account is currently empty, I will be getting my money back. The timing is not great, as I have bills to pay, but it beats the alternative. I have a new temporary card and a proper new card on the way. When the bank finishes up the paper work, I will get my money back, so all is well that ends well. However, it is still a little scary. In the meantime, I am trying to recall whether I have used this card in some less than entirely reputable gas station, but I just don't think so. I think that next time my debit card goes on vacation to Florida, it should be good enough to take me with it!

The CP


Blogger Tim Lacy said...

No worries, CP, you're not alone.

Although I reside in Chicago, apparently some impersonator of me in Michigan used my bank card numbers to buy something (not leather, I believe) at a convenience store. This happened 2-3 weeks ago, but my wife and I caught the charge. No other charges had been made. As in your situation, my card was erased.

But now I have to make an annoying to trip to my bank, in person, to fill out a fraud affidavit. Doing that involves getting there during working hours. Of course I work, so that means trying to get there on a Friday night when the bank is actually open until 6 pm.

Ah, modern life is so convenient! - TL

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you considered freezing your credit? It will make it more difficult for thieves to access your identity and credit.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous creditbuster said...

yeah, this kinda stuff happens every once in a while. hackers know some really sophisticated ways to get to your credit. or there's another explanation to all that. you're a sleepwalker. and every night you go to Florida to purchase leather
don't worry CP! your card is safe now

3:36 AM  

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