If it weren’t for my terrible diet, I might never have known that I was a victim of bank fraud.
I had some time to kill before attending a screening of the intensely bizarre Bad Film (review coming soon on Twitchfilm.com), and had also promised an old friend in Austin that I would send him one of Shake Shack’s goofy little neon burger shirts. Of course, if I was going to be waiting in line for twenty minutes, I figured I might as well get a burger as well. Once I had my order in and the shirt on the counter I handed the cashier my debit card without thinking twice, and that’s when I heard the tell-tale beep and saw the tell-tale frown.
“Your card’s been declined,” the cashier told me. My first reaction was annoyance.
“Can you run it again? It might just be the card,” I asked. She gave me a raised eyebrow and did so. Beep. Frown. A shake of the head.
“I’m sorry sir, your card’s been declined,” she repeated. Embarrassed and irritated, I apologized and then hastily beat a retreat from the restaurant, ready to call my bank and read them the riot act. This wouldn’t have been the first time they had suspended my card because of “unusual” charges (my girlfriend works upstate, and I travel frequently, so my debit charges are all over the place). However, once I pulled up my account activity on my phone, the anger turned to dread.
My most recent activity, according to my bank’s website, was a nearly $1,500 charge to a company name I did not recognize. I dialed customer service, trying to convince myself that it was some fixable mistake. The floodgates of dread opened wider when my PIN was rejected by the automated system, and I was bounced to an operator. Strike three came when the customer service rep told me the address I gave as verification did not match the address on file.
Things were not looking good.
Long story short, when I got to a branch, everything was taken care of very quickly. Whoever had gotten access to my information made the charge (to a wireless company based in South Africa that may or may not actually exist), then called and changed the address associated with the file. I changed everything back, got a new card, new PIN, and added a verbal password for a new layer of security. The only problem: I still have no idea how this person got a hold of my information.
In the digital age, this is truly frightening. There are so many potential avenues through which somebody could have obtained this information, it was paralyzing to think about. Did they have access to my social security number? Did they have access to my computer? Were my family members safe? It all felt so anonymous and volatile. I eventually ran a credit check and found no aberrations, besides an Express credit card that was opened in my name in 2008 but never used (go figure).
The timing was lucky or unlucky, depending on how you look at it. I’m in the middle of ironing out a lease for a new apartment, and all the needed funds and checks were cleared days before this breach actually took place, so there was no last-minute, panicked shuffling of bank information and no emergency loans required. Still, I don’t feel very safe anymore. The fact is, I’m not sure if there’s much I can do about it.
Oh, and the funds are suspended because the fraudulent transaction is “pending” but I can’t officially dispute it/recover funds until it posts, so that’s fun.