When one resides in Glendale, California, a city designated by the F.B.I. as one of the twenty safest cities in the United States, one might get complacent as to believe becoming a crime victim is least likely to happen-but it did.
In March, 2003, I was attempting an ATM withdrawal when my request for funds was declined due to a negative balance. Knowing this couldn’t be true, I went straight to the adjacent bank branch and was told that an electronic transaction was in progress for $753 to a company in Missouri. I asked the bank to stop it and they said that until it was posted, it was not possible to place a hold on it. I asked for the address in Missouri, but they had only the company name and state, but no street.
The next morning, I called 411 for area codes in Missouri until I found the number and spoke to the vendor, explaining that I did not authorize this transaction. The vendor was co-operative, giving a Glendale address as the delivery point. I gave all the information he provided to the Fraud and Bunco section of the Glendale Police Department, and also to my bank, giving them the police report number for their files. When I notified the bank, they said a second transaction for $400 was in progress. As with the other transaction, limited info-the company name and city, but no state-was all they could manage to tell me.
After calling 411 in nine states, I did find them. They too, were helpful providing not only the name and address-the same as the other- but also the phone number and tracking number provided by UPS. I promptly called the police and the bank. The police got a search warrant, went to the address, waited for the UPS truck, observed the delivery, and made an arrest. On scene they found and confiscated lists of stolen credit and debit card numbers, as well as illegally purchased merchandise.
My bank initially said it could take six to nine weeks before I could recover my money. But, because I chose to do a lot of phone calls to get the information the bank and the police needed, funds from the bank’ provisional account were moved to my checking account nine days after I had discovered my losses.
The Glendale police advised me to shred all receipts with my account numbers on them before placing them in the trash so as to prevent this from happening again. Since then I watch closely my bank balance, even though in the years since, my account has been visited by unauthorized parties on three different occasions. Each time, so far, vigilant checking of the balance has saved me from further distress by stopping the transaction in its tracks with the help of my bank’s newly formed identity theft bureau. They track spending patterns and if they detect anomalous activity, they automatically place a hold on all suspicious transfers as they did recently, last July when someone tried to wire funds to the Philippines, using a debit card number; however, the perpetrator(s) failed by not having sufficient personal info of mine for the clerk to complete their request. The would-be thieves gave the wrong maiden name of my mother and the alert clerk called my bank. The bank subsequently canceled that debit card and promptly issued another, which was mailed to me within 2 days.
We who keep using these cards in place of carrying cash on hand have come to depend upon this convenience, but at a price of being paranoid that someone determined to steal your identity may do so at a moments notice. While our governments and financial institutions are on the watch, it’s up to you to look out for number one, lest your solvency and the lifestyle it supports, be swept suddenly away.