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Dodged That Bullet

Originally published September 2020

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 tom wild turkeys 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 got 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 fading, 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 a 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 a 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 I 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, 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 . . . .


2 thoughts on “Dodged That Bullet”

  1. I’ve heard of a credit card theft where the thief made a bet. And won. And the payment was made back to the credit card. . . .

    The card company wasn’t out any money, either.

  2. I’ve had this happen a couple of times. Both times I spotted a weird charge, called my company to dispute it. One was made on the opposite coast to mine, the other time my card number apparently made a trip to England without me.
    The agent I talked to said that often the miscreants make one or two small charges as test runs before they hit the big time. Moral: Always check each line on your card statements. Also a reason not to use a card that directly withdraws from your bank account. I’ve friends with those who were hacked and it is a challenge to get any of your money back.

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