Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Next Crises: Identity Theft

As usual, I was minding my own business, shopping at the local Kroger store for a basket of victuals and a bottle of attitude adjustment and thought provoker, when unbeknownst to my mother's favorite son, some no good son-of-a-door-knob-sucking-lesbian-two-dollar-whore ripped me off electronically for $69.58 (sixty nine dollars and fifty eight cents).  Then, before I even knew this happened, I found myself out in Golden, Colorado at an Amoco where I spent $12 and change on petrol.

Keep reading, but be aware that there is non-pc speak ahead.  Your mileage is not likely to vary, exists where prohibited, no moonbats allowed, this is not a safe space.  Therapy is likely to consist of guns, dogs, whiskey, erudite conversation, and women of questionable moral character.

Between happy hour and sack time, I retrieved a voice mail, where some unknown female instructed me that the Secret Squirrel Security Service had discovered a few questionable purchases on my Visa card and wanted to verify them.  Fat chance, I thought.  This is a scam, and I'm not falling for it.  One martini later I decided to check my account on line just to be on the safe side.  Since I was up getting a refill anyway, why not?  A few minutes later I was cursing quietly and wondering how long it was going to take to stop the train, reverse the charges, and get a new card.  And, by the way, how much of a migraine this was going to be.

That was on Tuesday, May 1st, in the Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand Ten-and-Eight.  Now comes the fun part.

I looked at the screen again and noted that the charges from Kroger didn't look right somehow.  Then I realized the charges were too high.  In particular, I knew I hadn't spent $60.18 at the liquor store (inside Kroger's - it's Ohio, and the bluenoses have never really come to grips with the fact that everyone, or damned near everyone, likes a little belt now and then) - not that I couldn't find other bottles to buy, it's that I didn't this time out.  Same way with the eatables.  $67.70 is about twice what I actually spent.  I searched for the receipts, and wonder of all wonders, I found them!  One was attached to the paper bag from the liquor store, and the other was lying on the kitchen floor where it had dropped during the unpacking of the groceries ritual, and which I was too lazy to pick up.

Way cool.

I called the Secret Squirrel Security Service and talked to a nice lady who spoke good old everybody style English, and who was intelligent, and who was also enthusiastically cooperative.  Do any of you ambulatory derelicts want to give me the odds on that happening?  Divine intervention, I'm thinking.  Security helped me verify charges, canceled my card, informed my financial institution of this violation, and generally handled things.  I gather that this is not uncommon, and that what really happened is that my credit card information got stolen about six or eight weeks ago.  We don't know how or by whom, but stolen.  The thieves, who are professionals, created a nice, new Visa card which they sold to a wholesale distributor.  The wholesaler sold it to a retail outlet, where it was purchased by an end user.  It may have been part of a package deal, in which case it was sold again, but no matter.  The results are still the same.

I phoned Kroger the next day. The first lady told me that she didn't know what to do, but that her supervisor would know, but the only thing is - her supervisor was on break.  I would have to call back in twenty minutes.  I waited forty and called back.

My explanation and queries about the next action confused the supervisor, who insisted that I file a poh-leese report.  Once dat poh-leese repor' is file, den you can come by an' we can do sumpin', but not until the report was filed.  Then I could bring my Visa bill, my receipts, and my police report down to Kroger and they would be so good as to clear everything up.  I have little confidence that this is true, but that's what they say.

I filed a report with the Columbus PD, but since the Kroger store is in Whitehall, I had to file again with the Whitehall PD.  That's when I got a short education in electronic theft.

It's common.  One of the Whitehall PD cops used his debit card at the local McDonald's and some crooks cleaned out his account.  This means any outstanding checks will bounce, which incurs fees from both the bank and the payee.  Any automatic payments on the account will bounce, which means more fees and more headaches.  Then we get to play a little game called, 'Who's responsible for this train wreck?'  Ultimately, the bad guy is, but the bad guy is in the wind.  In this case the bad guy got away, and since this is a LEO we're talking about here, just think about the effort that went into catching that particular peccant mastermind.  Otherwise, dealing with regular hoi polloi, I'm told that the cardholder is usually reimbursed for most of the money.  Got that?  I'm told that in about 2% of the cases the cardholder gets the shaft.  So, if you use a debit card for point of sale purchases, and your number comes up, you've got a one in fifty chance of losing everything in your account.  As in gone, vanished, you aren't getting your bread back.

I have never once used a debit card for point of sale purchases.  The main reason?

Federal law protects the card holder, but only in the case of a credit card.  So, the aforementioned professional sons-of-etc. et al ad nauseam end up stealing from the credit card company and from the vendor, but not the card holder.  The loss, I'm told, is often eaten by the credit card company, but not always.  Depending on the size of the vendor, the credit card company may tell the vendor it's their loss, and suck it up, buttercup.  Nice, huh?

In this case the vendor I'm directly dealing with is the Kroger grocery store.  The employees are being obstructive, but not deliberately so.  It's through ignorance more than anything.  The credit card company is being cooperative, although not enthusiastically so.  About the only friends I have in this whole business are the Secret Squirrel Security Service and the Whitehall PD.  One is giving me help, and the other is sympathetic but there is little they can do, and we both know it.  Plus, the amount is not large, making this a misdemeanor.

What I've taken away from this so far is:
  • Save all your receipts for at least 10 weeks
  • Check all balances and transactions constantly
  • Do not sign up for any kind of auto-payment at all, ever
  • Never use a debit card
  • The powers that be will tell you to destroy your card.  Don't.  You'll need it to reverse charges with uncooperative merchants.

Now I'm late for happy hour.  Cheers!


CWMartin said...

Sorry to hear this. Just tells you the type of scum this wprld is infested with.

Mad Jack said...

Ain't that the truth.

I think it might be a function of population, but then I remember old Shotgun Bob correcting his son, Albert. A pile of deer hides was sitting just outside the processing facility, and appeared to be unwanted castoffs. Albert wanted to take a few, tan 'em, and sew a deerskin jacket. Shotgun Bob nixed it.

"Why? Nobody wants 'em."

"Because we don't take things that don't belong to us. I'll bring you back when the plant's open and we can ask the owner if he wants those hides or not."

I can see Albert's point, but Shotgun Bob is right. I don't believe enough parents are raising their children the way my brother is raising Albert.

Bob G. said...

Mad Jack:
---Funny, Wifey & I shop at Krogers for the SAME stuff (me for the latter of your two items).
---That was some serious ID theft, but thankfully, they didn't smack you up for HUNDREDS or worse...
---Still, I'm one of those quasi OCD a-holes - the one that CHECKS everything...THRICE (one better than Santa, baby).
---I watch the cashier when they ring stuff up, keep my credit cards in a metal holder that reflects any attempt to electronically "read" them, and also check the GAS MUMPS we frequent for those devices that steal CC info as well.
(blame that on my Philly PD ounce of prevention kinda gig).

---I'm not into debit cards. I prefer CCs, but have certain cards for certain purchases with different credit limits.
(technically, I could get a new car on credit, but...)
You have some good tips listed.
A shame when you go "paperless", THIS becomes an all-too-common result.

For what it's worth, I'm relieved that you got things sorted out.
And YES, we have parents who have NO FRIGGIN IDEA how to raise up a child.

Roll safe (and have a snort on me) out there.

Mad Jack said...

You know, I've found that people who are Conservative don't use debit cards and don't have any automatic pay or deductions set up. How about that?

I had some guess-the-race try to steal my liquor in the check out line. I'd already paid for my hooch in the liquor store, and I passed the bag to the cashier who put it aside. The guy in front of me had been casually screwing around, and when he reached over to collect his bagged up groceries, he went for my liquor first.

The cashier and I spoke in unison, "That's not yours!" He left my booze and left the store. The cashier smiled at me, and said, "He knew that wasn't his."

I laughed it off, and when I got home I scanned my receipt and sent a letter of recommendation to the store manager, explaining what happened.