If you have ever heard these words, they are usually followed by a sense of dread and a red face. If it is around Christmas time, we can blame our kids and everyone else we are over-extending ourselves for in the interest of giving. But when it happens after having a business lunch with a co-worker, it can be mystifying and a bit embarrassing. Thus was the situation yesterday.
I started the day with a successful transaction at an ATM to get some cash to add to my ID/Badge card. At Microsoft we can use our badges in the campus cafeterias to avoid digging through purses and wallets for payment. Just slap the badge on a scanner and, voila!, meal is paid for. My badge had run out of funds so I grabbed some cash from the ATM to add to my card.
When lunch rolled around, I met a co-worker for some Pho (btw…Saigon City in Bellevue, WA has the fastest service I have ever had at a Pho restaurant…and good Pho too!) and to talk about some events we are planning. The bill comes around and I go to pick it up using the same bank ATM card I used just hours earlier. Moments later, the server comes back and says (rather humorously), “Your wife must have gone shopping….your card was declined”. I actually thought he was joking but turns out he was serious. I go for my AMEX card and….”Oh…we don’t take those here.”
When I was much, much younger, if I heard “Your card was declined” I would have known it was because I was youthfully and without regard to my credit score over-extending myself and likely known I was going to eventually hear those words. I would have feigned ignorance, blamed the bank, the 3 day hold on deposited checks, or really anyone but myself. I wouldn’t have felt any real embarrassment because I knew it was going to happen sometime. But these days, I am supposed to be a responsible (ha!) adult (ha!) and respect the financial institutions that move money around the system and the proprietors that expect timely compensation for the wares and services they provide.
Needless to say, I was at a loss and YES, I was very embarrassed. My co-worker picked up the tab, and on the drive back to the office I violated my “don’t browse the web while driving” rule and looked up my account just to make sure I had at least the $15 bucks for lunch. Well, I had enough for several lunches and then some so I chalked it up to a freak banking error and finished the drive back to work.
Fast forward to earlier today… I am ordering pizzas for an event this evening and I use the SAME card that was declined yesterday. I don’t give it any thought because I KNOW I have money in the account. I call the order in, provide my card number, say thank you and we say goodbye. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Until 3 minutes later when the pizza guy calls me back and asks me to read the card number to him again because he must have typed it in incorrectly. I provide the info again and this time wait for him to run it. Sure enough – declined. So I provide a different card, which goes through just fine and begin the process of trying to figure out what is going on.
A call to my bank results in them confirming my card has been blocked. Why?
“Have you been traveling?” – Sure, I was in Portland last week for an event.
“Have you traveled out of state?” – Sure. I went to Texas over New Years.
“Let me give you a number to our Fraud Control Company. They will be able to assist you further”
Now…..because of horror stories I have read about in the media and the work I have done around security over the years, I was beginning to think the worst. Visions of destroyed credit, money vanishing from accounts, and some wahoo strolling around the country buying houses, boats and luxury cars in my name left me with a very uneasy feeling in my stomach. Not to mention I just knew this would be the start of a very, very long process of routing through phone systems, speaking to anything BUT a human being, getting no real answers, and ultimately living out of a van down by the river.
But, that is not what happened….
Surprisingly, I called the phone number provided for the fraud center for my bank and within 3 mins I was speaking to a real human being. I was prompted for a few pieces of information and then, much to my dismay, they actually gave me information in return.
“Have you been traveling?” – Yes. Portland. Last week for work.
“Have you been to Florida recently?” – Nope. Last I was in Florida was a year ago for work and vacation.
“What cities in Florida?” – Orlando.
“Not Miami?” – Nope. Never been to Miami. Don’t think I have even had a connecting flight through Miami.
“Well sir, we can confirm then that your card was compromised.”
Somehow, someone forged a physical copy of my card. The fraud center knows this because it was an attempted physical swipe transaction at a Wal-Mart in Miami, FL on March 1st. The transaction amount was for $311.24. It was flagged, declined and my card blocked. It was flagged because I had used the card the same day and actually swiped it at a couple of merchants here in the Redmond area. The fraud center will confirm with my bank that the transaction was a fraudulent transaction and the account number associated with my card should remain blocked. I need to work with my bank to get a new card.
Whew! and Awesome! Win for the good guys!
Sure, I will need to go to my bank and fill out some forms. Sure it is still a little nerve-wracking that someone managed to get enough information about my account to make a duplicate card. But it is also very re-assuring to experience first hand some of the safety controls that have been put in place to prevent the bad guys from making off with my hard earned cash and merchandise from a merchant. All said, I am happy to head to the bank to get a new card if that is the only fall out from a situation like this.
But I do have one concern…..What would have happened if that duplicate card would have been used at the local Fred Meyer’s I shop at?
Maybe it is time to revisit the checkbook…..
Damn! I shoulda gone to Fred Meyers! thanks for the heads up for next time... LOL!