It was a Saturday and the phone rang. The caller I.D. read "Toll Free." A radio was playing in the background and I was more intent on listening to it than to my telephone answering machine.
The answering machine clicked on and I pretty much expected the caller to hang up. I could hear fragments of what appeared to be a message. "This is Bank of the… Claudia's MasterCard … Unauthorized charges…"
"What the heck?" I turned my radio off and replayed the answering machine message.
The message was from MasterCard. It warned me that there might be unauthorized charges on my wife's debit card.
I went on line and accessed our checking account. Sure enough there was an unauthorized charge.
I immediately called my bank.
I spoke to a man who asked: "What is your wife's Debit card number?" I mumbled something, while my wife hunted for her card.
"Will my checking account number help?" I asked
"Yes," the man replied. "What are the last eight of your twelve digit number?"
I looked at my wife's checks and started to get confused. "Uhhh, the last four numbers are the check numbers, so that… lets…see?"
I started reading numbers and they were the wrong ones.
"Can I have the last four digits of the accounts holder's Social Security Number?" Asked the man.
I gave him my number
"I'm sorry sir, but that isn't the correct number."
"Whoops. I guess we used my wife's number for this account.'
Fortunately I had that written down and gave it to him.
My wife, by this time, had also managed to find her debit card. I gave the man her number.
"Yes," said the bank rep. "They attempted to charge over $700 to CVS Pharmacy in New York."
My wife exclaimed "New York? We live in Oregon!"
"There were a total of three separate charges at that drug store." He said. "MasterCard stopped two of them but one charge managed to sneak through."
My wife moaned "Does this mean that I'm going to lose my money?"
"No ma'am," he replied. You'll need to fill out an affidavit that we'll mail you stating that you haven't made any of these charges. You will have ten days to mail it back to us. I'm sure that you will be able to recover all of your money. We've cancelled your debit card and we'll issue you a new one."
What a relief.
Three weekdays went by and no affidavits appeared in the mail.
I called the manager of my bank.
She was adamant "Don't wait for a letter, you need to come down right away. We can produce an affidavit here and you can sign it and we'll fax it in. "
Five minutes later, my wife and I were at the bank filling out papers.
We asked: "How were these people able to get my wife's Debit card number? Claudia hardly ever uses hers."
The bank manager smiled: "She doesn't have to use it. We're dealing with organized crime. They have computer programs that generate numbers, and when one works, they stamp out a card. The card probably didn't have Claudia's name or our bank's name on it. Most places don't care. You were just lucky that the fraud division caught it."
We were lucky. I hope that we stay lucky. My advice is to continually check your balances. If you can go on line do so. You might be sorry if you don't.
And your bank might not be as alert or accommodating as mine.
Pray that this sort of thing doesn't happen to you.
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