Dodged That Bullet

Today it’s a two-dog, one-cat writing space. Outside blessedly cool coastal clouds ward off, with magical signage, the 90-plus days before and to come—ugh. The two dogs will alert me to phantom car-door closings and the approach of the TomTom Club—four wild turkey toms who have made our little neighborhood their summer home. The cat will pose sleepily on the cat tree, bathing, preening, yawning and looking overall elegant and shapely.

The most interesting and rather stressful thing that happened yesterday and today was that my credit card got hacked.

This is a thing that happens to other people, not me. Yesterday we went to get the husband a new phone of which I am highly jealous—an iPhone 11. His old, refurbished iPhone 6s—the same as my 5-year-old phone—just up and refused to recharge. No amount of air-cleaning, oiling or cursing would bring it back to life. Wheezing, short-of-breath and ailing, the thing passed away.

At the Verizon store, appointment made, waiting outside in the hot sun masked and irritable, we were escorted in by a friendly salesman—aren’t they always friendly?—and the circus began, one-ring, bright lights, lots of noise and fantasies made true. The husband basically uses his phone as a phone, not as a computer, reader, TV set, or anything most way younger people do. But I think this phone might make the difference.

Charges were made to our account, and for the extras I whipped out my credit card. Denied. Twice. “Oh, it’s probably the chip,” I said. The friendly salesman smiled but made no reply.

Luckily I carry the hidden credit card, the emergency credit card I am not allowed to use except for, well, an emergency. Shopping completed, new phone in hand, powered up, linked to our wireless and ready to use, I decided to check my mail.

There was an email from a different utility. The payment to them had been denied. That’s when I began to get mad.

“What’s wrong with my credit union? Did they screw something up?”

Online the account looked normal. No alerts, no weird charges. Of course, it’s Saturday. It is a social, humanist law that all things bad, like water heaters leaking or the furnace breaking will occur on a weekend. However, I did find the number for a Saturday-credit-card-lost-stolen-or-potential-fraud call and dialed.

Actually, the reason I called then, hoping initially that this denial thing was a fluke and everything would fix itself, was because there was also a recurring charge to blah blah blah that I didn’t recognize and had no recollection of, for $39.99 a month.

Time to dispute.

The nice customer service person to assisted me told me the only way I could stop this was to get a new card and number. Not the best solution but I was willing, having read on the Internet that this payee could be fraudulent. But no, wait, she said, let me check on something.

“This card has been blocked by the Security People [for my credit union],” she told me when she came back on. (She didn’t use the term “Security People” but I can’t remember what they are called.) Fraudulent activity, she advised, and sent me to their department.

After roughly 7 minutes on hold, during which I set my phone on speaker and finished the New York Times Crossword, another very helpful customer service person took over, and proceeded to tell me that three days earlier someone in the state of Washington (I live in Oregon) tried to buy a new mattress and bicycle—both for over $1000 bucks—and apparently a floral arrangement. Huh.

All, thankfully, were denied. New card for myself and the husband are on the way.

As denials accumulate, I’ll update the card where appropriate, but honestly, I am an inveterate user of online shopping—and lazily love the ease of having one’s card information on file with sellers. Dumb, I guess.

I have no idea where or when or how someone was able to buy my card number and use it. Funny, the towns where the fraudsters shopped were near the town where we used to live. Go figure.

I’m not mad at my credit union. They are the best in the world and we have been with them for decades. They prevented me from losing money, and having to fight to get it back. Just a little miffed that they said they called and left a message, which I did not see on my phone.

Guess I need a new phone . . . .



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Dodged That Bullet — 4 Comments

  1. This happened to us — twice. Crises and disasters evidently are good times for these people. The first time our account got hacked was during the Hurricane Sandy disaster. And then, this spring, my debit card number got hacked — not my husband’s, but just mine. I hadn’t even used the card all that time due to covid. All we bought was groceries, to be delivered, and my husband insisted on being in charge of that. Fraudulent charges on my card were attempted from Brooklyn and the East Village, down to Lake Charles in Louisiana — for a Bed and Breakfast, and an attempt to actually empty our checking account via Venmo. But we don’t have a Venmo account, so that never went through either.

    Thank goodness the banks and your company are so cooperative in these matters. It’s scary, but both you and I are very lucky — disaster was averted.

  2. Capitol One denied a couple of fraudulent charges and notified me by email–I am likely to hang up on phone calls from numbers I do not recognize. We had new cards within days.

    Capitol One also notifies me if one of my recurring bills is above the usual amount.

    Some bureaucracy is good.

  3. This has happened to us numerous times. A hassle to contact everyone where we do auto payments, but our company is very good at notifying and replacing.