On Monday night, I went on line to check my bank account. As soon as I opened it, my heart started racing and I felt panicked. Someone was debiting my account every couple of hours, mostly in increments of $235.00.
It was close to midnight and my bank was, of course, closed. I called the toll free VISA number. I told the woman who answered what was going on and asked her to block the card. She said that she did block it, yet overnight, two more $235.00 debits went through.
Tuesday Morning: I was in the bank lobby when they opened at 8:30 a.m. I talked with the assistant branch manager, a young woman named Amanda, who has never been anything but extremely helpful to me in the past.
Amanda immediately pulled up my account and went through it with me; she blocked my VISA card (since apparently it had NOT been blocked the night before.) She filled out the paper work to file with Visa. Fnally, she sent me to the police department to file a report and told me not to worry because everything would be straightened out and my account was covered against such fraud.
The Oak Ridge Police Department was also very helpful. I'll be picking up my police report to file with VISA on Monday morning and taking it back to Amanda.
FRIDAY MORNING: The phone rang around 10 a.m. It was Amanda calling to tell me that someone had used my card number to purchase two dresses last night at a company called Wholesale Dresses. She told me not to worry because I would not have to pay for those dresses. She just wanted to warn me in case I checked my account on line this weekend; she didn't want me to panic all over again.
I am surprised at how much this security breach has discombobulated and frightened me. I have felt unsettled and insecure in general all week. Even though my house and studio have a top of the line wireless security system, my dog barks the moment anyone pulls in the driveway and I share a house with three strong, adult men, I still feel vaguely afraid, almost as if I'm being watched.
Reasonably, I know that's nonsense. In fact, the policeman told me that it's doubtful that whomever is using my card number even knows who I am. He says that there are people who 'sweep' the internet continually looking for sixteen digit numbers (the number of digits on all credit cards), grabbing them and using them until they are blocked. Then, they just move on.
Actually, when the officer did some checking, he found that most of the charges on my account were coming from France. (I haven't been to France in two years.) He says the source of fraud is nearly always Europe, Asia, or, sometimes Africa.
But this unsettled sense of fear I have isn't about reason. It's about my privacy having been invaded and violated.
I do, however, have a couple of take aways that ARE entirely reasonable. One is not to EVER use your credit card on line no matter how secure the site looks. Amanda told me that it's really not smart to use anything but Paypal on line. Message received: I won't, not ever again.
My other take away is that there is nothing like a home town bank when you really need personal service. My bank is Citizens First out of Wartburg. They have always been wonderful to me but in the last few days, Amanda has been a comforting hand holder and her reassurance has meant so much to me. At times like these, I am so grateful not to be with a big, impersonal bank.
And actually, I have another take away. This week, at the same time this credit card crap has come to light, a woman I went to high school with has been in the hospital on oxygen and a morphine pump, struggling to breathe. It is unlikely that she will ever leave the hospital. Thinking about her and the other fifty some odd souls from my high school graduating class who have already left this world, I have a sense of how trivial my little Visa dust up really is.
But I'm human, likely more fallible than most, and trivial, shallow crap often preoccupies my thoughts.