Someone got a hold of my debit card number. I’m not quite sure how, but this diabolical small-time criminal has been trying to nickle and dime the living shit out of my account, and I’ve been catching them at every turn. I’m a relentless activity checker.
But here’s the thing. I can’t be upset with criminals for doing what they do. For whatever reason, they’re despicable miscreants whose lives took a wrong turn and instead of applying their creativity toward being productive members of society, they would prefer to steal from hardworking tax-payers. I can’t stop them; I can only protect against them. Which is why I use reputable banking institutions. Or at least that’s what I thought I was using.
Although fraud alerts are mildly irritating and occasionally inconvenient, I felt somewhat protected and happy to know that someone is looking out for my financial well-being.
When I traveled to Miami earlier this year and all of my cards were declined at CVS, including my ATM card (despite the fact that I input my actual PIN number), I was slightly annoyed.
Okay, if I’m being honest, I was HIGHLY annoyed and told the customer service agent who was from another country that leaving their customers high and dry with absolutely no resources is not only irresponsible, it’s dangerous. When she suggested that I inform them when I decided to travel, I retorted that my financial institution works for ME — not the other way around — and I shouldn’t have to report my whereabouts to a bank, especially not when my charges are authentic, and can be verified with a quick phone call.
At the end, I conceded, and have made a point of telling the bank when I’m planning to be in another city so that I won’t get declined while trying to buy mundane things, like water and q-tips (or important things, like rounds of cocktails). I decided to cooperate for my alleged safety.
With all of the concessions that I’ve made to help the bank help me, I’m shocked and amazed at what this moronic card-stealing mofo has been able to accomplish with my card.
While doing my daily perusal of charges, I noticed a strange charge from bodybuilding.com. I’ve never ordered anything from there — especially not anything that costs $77.81. A few lines later, I saw a reversal of that same charge, so I assumed that it was a mistake that had been rectified.
That was probably a good assumption until I received a UPS notice that I had missed a package.
Now . . . if you know me, you will know that I’m a chronic shopper with a penchant for online shopping. Especially late at night. While sipping a glass of wine. Yep, no earthly good can come of it. That said, it’s not uncommon that packages arrive and I can’t truly recall what I’ve purchased and when.
Because I missed the package, I had to go to the UPS distribution center. If you’ve never been there, consider yourself lucky. It’s a hell-hole. Trust me . . . you’d rather have a pap smear. Even if you’re a man. Nobody is happy to be there, which counts doubly for the workers who unenthusiastically search for your packages, wearing brown polyester, in a warehouse the size of a small country, moving slower than a corpse in the beaming sun. If ever there was a place that needed a DJ and a full bar, it’s the UPS distribution center.
I waited 1/2 hour for the package (while listening to the woman next to me on her cell phone, having a loud conversation about how she busted her man cheating). The only saving grace was my hope that the package could have contained a cute dress. Maybe even two! Nope. It was a huge jug of berry-flavored protein powder from bodybuilding.com. WTF? Berry? (I would have been less upset had it been chocolate.)
So, not only does the card thief have terrible taste in supplements, but he somehow had his booty sent to my address.
I called to straighten it out, and the good people at bodybuilding.com promptly removed the charge and sent a return label for the berry delight.
A few days later, I noticed another erroneous charge. This time from Christianmingles.com. Really? So not only does this idjit mainline protein powder, but he’s buffing up to improve his appearance so that when he trolls religious dating sites, he’ll be attractive enough to either fleece some unsuspecting zealot, or get some good God-fearing ass. Either way . . . not on my dime! I called the good Christian minglers who reversed the charge and deactivated the account — although I couldn’t coerce them to give me the name of the hypocritical child of God who set up the account. (In retrospect, this was a good thing, because I would have hunted him down and done unholy things to him.)
I had a choice to make. I could have changed my debit card number. But I didn’t want to do that, because I have so many automatic payments that it would have turned my life upside down with having to change that number with so many institutions. My better option was to reset alerts. If there was a charge over $20, I would receive a text message so that I could catch it immediately.
All was quiet for about two weeks, although the bank did send me two fraud alert texts because they were concerned about a $26 purchase at Jewel (where I go every week), and a $29 purchase at LA Fitness (which is a recurring monthly purchase for my dad’s health club account).
I was hoping that the criminal would have grown tired of getting declined and moved on to the next theft. Not so much.
One morning, I received an alert about a charge from AutoZone to the tune of $135. I called the bank immediately. The conversation went something like this:
Gina: I’d like to report a fraudulent charge on my account.
Customer Service Agent: Okay, I have your account. Can you tell me which charge?
G: Yes, the Autozone charge that occurred roughly 10 minutes ago.
CSA: I see that. And you didn’t make that charge?
G: No, I didn’t. I’m sitting at home in my office. Can I asked where that charge originated?
CSA: In Orlando, Florida.
G: So, let me get this straight . . . every time I travel, I have to tell you where I’m going or else my card gets declined. Is that right?
CSA: Um . . . yes ma’am.
G: Okay . . . so what you’re telling me is that while I have to check in with you to use my own card, a criminal can easily get away with charging something on my account in an entirely different state. Aside from the fact that I haven’t been to Orlando this year, and haven’t informed you that I planned to return to the state of Florida. Right?
CSA: Um . . . right
G: Also? I need to understand your algorithms
CSA: I’m sorry?
G: I need to know how you determine what might be a fraudulent charge. Because so far you’ve frantically contacted me for small charges that I make at places that I frequent, yet you think it’s a stellar idea to approve obviously criminalistic charges from places that I’ve never been, in categories that I don’t have a history of visiting . . . such as Christian dating sites and body building sites? Does that make sense to you?
CSA: Well . . . no . . . I see your point, but . . . would you like to change your card number?
G: And the only way to rectify this, in your mind, is for me to completely inconvenience myself by changing my card numbers, which turns my entire accounting system completely catawampus?
CSA: Excuse me?
G: Topsy turvy? Oh, never mind. It’s a mess!
CSA: Well, ma’am, it’s the only solution that will completely eliminate the problem.
G: While I realize that, I can’t help thinking that a fine financial institution like yourselves, with whom I have several accounts, would extend themselves to assist me. By the way? Can you please reverse that Autozone charge?
CSA: Sorry ma’am. You’re going to have to call them yourself once the charge changes from pending to actual.
G: So, you can’t even call on my behalf? What exactly do you guys do besides hold on to my money?
G: Never mind. Just please change my account number. If you have to cut it off now, can you at least express the card to me?
CSA: For a fee.
Sometimes I think it would be better to keep my money in the floorboards.
As it stands now, I have a new card number that I haven’t yet memorized, and I’m starting to get emergency alerts from creditors that my card is no longer valid. If I receive an alert from Christianmingles.com, I’m going to lose it.
Thanks for listening!