I was out having a great time on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. I went to the mobile phone store and dropped over $500 on the new smartphone and tablet I'd been dreaming about on the very day I was eligible to upgrade. Later in the afternoon, I had a call I didn't recognize, so I didn't answer it.
After checking the message, I learned it was some fraud detection unit contracted by my bank. I figured that since I spent so much at one place, plus I had made a bunch of online purchases buying accessories for my new toys, so I figured the unusual activity somehow triggered some red flags. I was annoyed, because I feel like I should be able to use my money anyway I'd like, right? So I didn't make the callback right away.
I went out with friends later, and we ended up at a bar that accepted cash only. Without thinking much about it, I tried to use the ATM since I didn't have much cash on me -- I rarely do. It didn't take long after the transaction was denied for me to remember the phone call I casually ignored. I dug deeper into my cavernous purse and found a $20 bill and enjoyed the evening at a fun Philly dive bar and had a great time with friends.
Sunday morning, I called the fraud unit. After informing the unfortunate person on the other side that I felt like I should be able to go out and make some unusual purchases as I see fit, they asked me about $169 spent at a shoe store in Brooklyn the same day, along with a purchase from Coca Cola, and some parking meter charges in Brooklyn.
Hang on -- what?
It turns out that somehow, someone was using a debit card of mine in Brooklyn. When I lived there, I did lose a debit card, but it had been cancelled, or at least it was supposed to have been, Stranger still is that happened almost a year ago, and I haven't noticed any unusual activity on my account at all during that time.
I was quickly very grateful for the third-party fraud detection company my small bank uses, and kicked myself for thinking the account disruption was because I treated myself to some special things and they didn't like that. But now I had a new problem -- no access to my bank account, and after another call to the phone number on the back of my debit card, I learned nothing could be done until Monday.
What complicated the process is that I don't have a nearby branch since I've moved around a lot in the last year. I've been in the process of transitioning away from a traditional bank and onto using a Bluebird card exclusively, but that process has been complicated.
When I called my branch on Monday morning, I learned that both cards were still showing up as being active on their end. We verified the purchases that were mine and which were not.
The lady at my branch was very helpful, but even after talking to her manager, learned that if I wanted to file a claim to get the money spent fraudulently, I would have to come into the branch and sign in person, in front of the notary public on duty at the branch, which is over 350 miles away. I found out another branch is only an hour away, but I'll still have to take time off from work to go in and file the paperwork within 90 days of Saturday, when the stolen debit card was used.
The moral of the story is that when you lose a debit card, not only call and cancel it, but follow up with the bank to make sure the card has been deactivated. And when the fraud company calls you to tell you they think your account has been compromised, it probably has been.