By Patricia L Johnson
After spending the entire afternoon at his favorite sporting goods store, my husband walked in with a bag of burgers and advised he had to use cash at the burger store because his debit card wouldn’t work. My husband uses his debit card for everything. If he stops at a filling station to buy a cold drink, he pays for it with his debit card so all I could do was laugh when he explained he was ‘out of business’.
15 minutes later the phone rang and according to our caller ID, it was some Risk Management association. They asked to speak to my husband, but because I really don’t want a new condo, a trip to anywhere, or a new SUV, I generally screen his calls. I’m especially leery about calls where the caller wants any type of information, as was the case with this call. The gentleman wanted to confirm my husband’s name, and then wanted some information about his debit card usage at which time, I hung up, but the call disturbed me so I went online to check our account balance.
$42.63 is the number I received. I think I looked at it several times before it sank in that something was drastically wrong, so I called the Risk Management place back (thank goodness for caller ID). This time around they explained they work directly for my bank and were hired to cancel debit cards when unusual activities were spotted.
The unusual activities on my husband’s card were a $430.35 purchase in Scottsdale AZ, another $434.71 purchase in Scottsdale, and yet another for $356.17 in the same location, all on Saturday afternoon. The last charge for $356.17 was declined by the card company and the card cancelled.
I was advised by the Risk Management people to go over to our local bank as soon as they opened, explain the situation to them and request a new card. Since Monday was a federal holiday, it meant we wouldn’t be able to go to the bank until Tuesday morning. In the meanwhile, I sent our bank headquarters an e-mail through my online banking account explaining what happened.
Bright and early yesterday morning we left the house, knowing it was going to take us at least the entire morning to get this mess straightened out. Our worse fears were realized when we arrived at the bank and were told by the personal banker they were ‘down’ because the Windows 7 operating system had just been installed on all their computers and they were not yet ‘up and running’. Our banker was very optimistic she would be able to contact the main branch and have them fax over the documents for signature.
Less than 10 minutes later we were out the door. My initial e-mail had provided headquarters with all the information they needed so headquarters filled out the paperwork, faxed it for my husband’s signature, advised a new card had already been ordered, and advised our money would be put back in our account generally within 48 hours, but it could take up to 10 working days. At the end of a 90-day period, they would send a letter advising how their investigation came out, but in the meanwhile we would not be held liable for any of the charges incurred by the Scottsdale buyers.
We were also advised this is extremely common that there is more and more fraudulent use of credit/debit card numbers. Apparently there is some sort of device that can be attached to an ATM machine that scans transactions and provides the thieves with account data. This is not what happened to my husband’s card however, as he never uses an ATM machine.
More than likely what happened in his particular instance is the thief simply printed up debit cards, using random numbers, and his number came up. Our banker explained the purchases were made using the card number, without the pin number, and because they were made at a Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon the clerk at the store did little to verify the validity of the purchases.
When you do your best to avoid situations like this and still get stung, it’s distressing and it’s even more distressing that ALL of us are paying for this type of fraud. The bank may forgive the charges, but they’re out (in this particular instance) almost $900 unless they can catch the people responsible and have them pay. That $900 is made up by all of us in the form of higher interest rates and increased banking fees for all services; therefore we all need to use our cards as responsibly as possible.
© 2011 Patricia L Johnson