Tuesday, December 25, 2007

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

We all hear about it, but we all say, "it'll never happen to me". We've all known someone it happened to, but still we remain blissfully blindered. Well, it happened to me, again.

What you say? A motorcycle crash? This is a motorcycle blog after all. But, no. I haven't crashed, not on my motorcycle. Not yet.

On the Sunday before Christmas, with half my shopping left to go, including my grocery shopping, I got one of those emails we all dread (well maybe just some of us) telling me my bank account is overdrawn.

My first thought was, No Way! But upon checking my online banking I found two charges I didn't make; one for $1507 and one for $128. Both charges were made in a city far away from where I live.

In a panic, I went flying around the house looking for my wallet, which I could not find. I had been shopping the day before and had carried my wallet in my pocket. When I couldn't find it, I assumed it had been lost or stolen.

I quickly called all my credit card companies and canceled my cards. Then I called my bank's fraud number and explained what happened. You see, I had chosen this bank - Bank of America - because they claimed to have absolute immediate fraud protection on my debit card. But the story from them was quite different than I expected.

All card charges not using a PIN are submitted to the account holder and sit there in "pending" mode until they clear. This could take up to 3 business days. It was explained to me that these fraudulent charges could not be removed until they clear. I could not file a fraud claim until that time. So in essence, while my bank account is $750 overdrawn, I could not access any of the money I knew I had. Nor could I file a claim to reverse it.

What they also told me was that they had to conduct an investigation before determining that it actually was fraud. Now, I can understand this, since I suppose someone may make a huge purchase and then claim fraud. However, the charges were made hundreds of miles from my home, in person, by a man. I know this, because I called the two merchants where my card was used, in person. In both cases it was a Hispanic man. Still, the attitude from the customer service representative was skeptical at best.

And the real kicker of all this? I have alerts set up to tell me when suspicious activity occurs on my account. However, I was only able to stop one transaction for over $1000 at Walmart, which occurred AFTER the thief used my card for more than $1700. Bank of America allowed the larger of the two transactions to go through, which overdrew my account for $500, then another after that! Neither of which I received an alert for!

Now, you must understand that this is the first Christmas in a very long time when I actually planned ahead so I would not be broke on Christmas Day. I had plenty of cash left over so that when my bills came in shortly after Christmas, I could still pay them. And here I was with no cash flow, only half my shopping done, and no Christmas dinner groceries.

I explained all this to the bank personnel on Christmas Eve, to which they just smiled and said, so sorry, there's nothing we can do until the charges clear.

So here's the way I see it. The charges have not been paid, but my account shows it is severely overdrawn. My cash sits in my account and I can't touch it. I've informed them that these charges are fraudulent, yet they cannot block them. With the technology of this day and age, and with many other banks out there who can immediately suspend a charge, the big corporate Bank of America prefers to screw its patrons rather than employ up to date technology.

I have in my possession a small register booklet that clearly states that Bank of America guarantees fraud protection, and that funds will be replaced on the next business day, which they have not done, and tell me they cannot do.

In the process of cancelling everything and going through all my EFT payments, which I must now change, I found my wallet. It had fallen down between my bed and nightstand. I was relieved, to say the least. But then it occurred to me, how could someone use my bank card in a point-of-sale purchase without the actual card? I got back on the phone, angry, confused and more intent on replacing my missing cash than ever.

Here's what they told me when I asked how the hell this could happen - any merchant can swipe your bank card and get the personal information it contains, and then make a counterfeit card. I was totally flabbergasted at this information. Not that these cards can be made, that's probably a simple thing to do, but that Bank of America had no fail-safe information embedded inside my card to prevent a duplicate from being used. All they needed was my card number, expiration date, and 3-digit code, all of which is clearly printed on the card.

Being the outspoken person that I am, I wrote letters and emails to Bank of America explaining my dissatisfaction over this turn of events, and their lack of action to correct what was an immediate concern for me. To which I received two responses from two different people. Both emails had canned paragraphs in them that matched word for word. Neither one answered my questions. They could both be given an "A" for politeness, and a "F" for customer satisfaction.

So, here I sit, on Christmas Day, and for probably all this week, with not a penny to my name. And somewhere in Ft. Meyers, Florida, some Hispanic man is having a very lucrative Christmas with whomever, at my expense.

I filed a police report, and do you know what they said? This crime occurred out of their jurisdiction and there was nothing they could or would do. Is it any wonder that criminals who steal identity and your money feel free to do so? The money hidden between the mattresses is beginning to sound more and more appealing.

I can't say my Christmas was uneventful. And this fiasco isn't over yet. But I have my two wonderful daughters with me, I have my health, and a roof over my head. All of which I achieved all on my own. Which is something that low-life thief can't claim.

I will prevail as I can prove my whereabouts when the charges were made, but the hassle? Well, I'll be shopping elsewhere to do my banking, as is my choice. And anyone who will listen will get the low-down on Bank of America.

It is said that when a customer is happy with services, they might tell one other person. But when a customer is unhappy, they tell 10 or more. I believe I'll do my part in supporting that theory. Is it their fault my bank card was counterfeited? No. But it is their responsibility, to me as a patron, and for using my money in their institution, to protect me from such things.

And just like the impending motorcycle crash, identity theft will happen to you eventually. Be ready for it, and if you do your banking with B of A, you may want to consider another institution.

Merry Christmas to all of you out there. Ride safe, ride free.


rc said...

Sue the bastards. The fact that they are large is what they count on to allow themselves to piss on the little guy.

My cards tell me they are not valid until I sign them. I do not sign them.

If the store accepts them without asking for ID it's on them.

I have had stores tell me I have to sign my card to which I have responded no. They accepted the anyway.

It's get YOUR money anyway they can and if they have to be complicit in theft then so be it. rc

Sam said...

I sign the back of my cards with "Ask for Identification". However, my bank card was duplicated using the general information printed on it. I did not lose my card - the thief signed my name on the back of the counterfeit card. The clerk never asked for an ID and accepted the forged signature on the slip.

It's been 4 business days since this happened. I still don't have my money credited back to my account, and B of A has charged me with overdraft fees, which they tell me I will be compensated for - in 2-3 business days.

All attempts to speak to a manager or someone with authority gets me some "customer service rep" who gives me the same old song and dance.

I intend to write letters to everyone and anyone I can find at B of A until I get some compensation for my "inconveniences".

"Hell hath no fury...."