Here is an identity theft story from my friend, S. In her own words. The lesson – never never never give anyone your debit card. Even if you’re recovering from surgery in a hospital.
Last place one would expect identity fraud
My husband, who is a network engineer, has schooled me over the years on how to keep myself from becoming a victim online. We’ve been using password safe for at least twelve years to keep my passwords safe and always use American Express online because it’s one of the few credit cards that will go to bat for you if there’s a problem with an online purchase. I only use that credit card online. Better safe than sorry. Those “lessons” have held me in good stead… until last year.
I was hospitalized with an extraordinarily large kidney stone and had four surgeries. But that’s not the story, just the background leading up to my issue with identity theft.
My husband and I decided that it would be wise to get my release prescriptions from the hospital’s pharmacy. No big deal, right? Wrong. The clerk from the pharmacy came to my room, and I handed her my debit card. Looking back, THAT was a really stupid thing to do but in my defense with everything that had happened in the previous five days, I wasn’t thinking and neither was my husband. The clerk took the card left to go to the pharmacy and then returned with the prescription and my card.
I didn’t think a thing until I was home recovering and downloaded my bank statement the following month to reconcile it. Yes, I’m an anal person and reconcile my bank statements every month. Good thing I did, too.
I spotted two charges that amounted to over $320 from Xfinity mobile. I originally thought my husband bought something from them since it’s a joint account and we both have debit cards attached to that account. When I questioned him, he reminded me we are only affiliated with Verizon, not Xfinity. That triggered a search for other bogus charges. I found one that was pending for a store I had never even heard of and wouldn’t have purchased anything there either since it was for children and mine are all grown. I can’t remember how much that charge was but the $320 caused my overdraft protection to kick in and I was charged an overdraft fee. Not cool.
Immediately, I called the bank, and they said it was my card used for those purchases. Since I was recovering from surgery I hadn‘t left the house and had to rack my brain to figure out when I had last used it and remembered giving it to the pharmacy for my prescriptions. The person who stole the credit card number and information—that person had ALL of my information, courtesy of the hospital records—name, address, you name it, they had it.
The bank thanked me for quickly calling them and they immediately cancelled my card. They didn’t accept the pending charge and thanked me for catching it so quickly. They also gave me a provisionary credit for the $320 with stipulations. I had a whole slew of things I had to do to keep the credit: contact my local police fraud department, complete a five-page form for the bank with copies of the bank statement with the charges circled, have it notarized and send it to the bank.
When I examined the bank statement I realized the person waited almost a month before he or she used my account and then used the account once a week for three weeks before I caught it. Thankfully, I did. Others are not as lucky.
Later in the month, a police investigator called, and I had to go repeat the entire ordeal to the investigator who said they would investigate but I would not know the outcome of their investigation unless I had to appear in court. I hoped they could resolve the situation without me having to deal with court issues.
It took time and effort to deal with this situation. Time away from my job, stress from the situation since my husband’s direct deposits were affiliated with that account and I was recovering from surgery. If we had had to open a new bank account that would have been more time and effort because someone decided they needed funds from my account to take care of their personal business.
I realized a few things through this ordeal. While the funds stolen from my account were less than the bank’s limit of $500 replacement for fraudulent charges, how many people are dealing with fraud where their entire account is cleared out? Or just as bad, their entire lives are turned upside down? I’m certain it is in the millions, maybe even tens of millions! Add to that the manpower to find the culprits and the emotional and stress caused to the victim and you have a crisis of national or international proportions.
I was saddened to think someone at a hospital would take advantage of a person who was ill but standards have deteriorated in our society so much that people just don’t care anymore.
Moral of the story…don’t let your credit or debit card out of your sight. Pay attention to your bank and credit card statements for fraudulent charges and report them immediately.