Credit Theft: A Victimless Crime?

I recently got a new bank card because my bank said I had purchased something from a store that had a security breach. In this case I think it was Wendy’s. I was told that the card I was using would stop working on August 25th and needed to activate the new card before then. So I dutifully activated the new card on August 24th.  The new card had a different account number and expiration date than my previous card.

On Labor Day morning (September 5th ), my wife comes into the bedroom saying the bank is calling with a fraud alert. Every few months I get a call like this because my purchasing habits go outside their normal parameters but I did nothing that would trigger such a call. I went on the Internet and sure enough several fraudulent charges had been made using my brand new bank card.

The second attempt at Rite Aid is likely what triggered the fraud alert.

Being that Labor Day is a bank holiday, all I could do was cancel my bank card. I had to wait until the next day to dispute the charges.

After the payments posted on the first three transactions, the declined withdrawal dropped-off the bank record and only the pending remained. The transaction said it would not post until September 7th. (I could only dispute the charges that successfully removed money from my account and not the pending Walmart charge.)

On September 6th, I contacted Walmart and my bank, hoping to thwart the last remaining transaction by these thieves. Even with the date, approximate time of the fraudulent purchase, and confirmation number of the purchase, neither was able (or willing) to help me.

Walmart said that without the actual order number that they could not stop the transaction. My bank said that they not only couldn’t block it but they couldn’t even tell me how much the final transaction would be until it posted. The lady at the bank couldn’t even see the pending charge until I pulled up my account on my cell phone and showed it to her.

Furthermore, they told me not to take money out of my account because they couldn’t promise me that any of my pending transactions would go thru if I did that. In short, I was told to take it in the shorts and just let the fraudulent charge happen and then I would get the money reimbursed from the bank in about ten days.

Being that my mortgage payment and other large transactions had not yet cleared the bank, this charge at could have been very substantial and depleted my bank account to the point that everything would bounce anyways. Faced with this nightmare scenario, what would you do?

The more I thought about it, the more violated I felt. As often happens in our country, you are first violated by the criminal and then a second time by the system.

I left the minimum amount necessary to cover all the outstanding checks that I had already mailed in my account and transferred the rest of the money to my wife’s account. Early this morning, I awakened to find that all pending transactions except Walmart had posted. At that point, I further reduced my bank balance to $75. When I got up to go to work, I decided I needed to transfer an additional $200 to my checking account. My bank separately posted one check later in the morning. They did ding me for a fee to cover the check but as of this writing, Walmart has dropped off my account.

I’m hoping that the worst is behind me now. It appears that the Walmart purchase was aborted; probably overnight. If the thieves had spent a small sum on my card, the transaction likely would have gone thru but I have the feeling that they “went for broke” or more literally tried to make me broke.

Of interest to me is the fact that two of the fraudulent orders that they charged to my account were intended for delivery at a physical address. The food order and Walmart order both had to go somewhere. A reasonable person would think this would make it easier to catch these guys but neither my bank nor Walmart indicated that law enforcement be notified of the fraud.

It reminds me of the time we got robbed and the policeman asked if we had insurance and as soon as we said yes, they were done looking for the crooks.

It really bothers me that such fraud is tolerated and so commonplace that nobody even seems interested in pursuing the thieves. For my bank, it is just an allocation in their general ledger and a cost for doing business.

My final thought on this is that God is watching and our family has asked Him to mete out a little justice now on these thieves and not let it wait until the next life. And yes I do believe that divine intervention prevented this from being as harmful to us as it could have been.