I really wish this was another Henry James story, but it ain’t.
It happened the day before my birthday this year and we’re still experiencing some pretty significant side effects. It was a Franklin Delano Roosevelt moment, sure as hell.
A date which will live in infamy
The twenty ninth of last month, the evening before my sixty sixth birthday, a group of sneaky, asshole, spawns of Satan, stole THIRTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS from me and my wife.
This wasn’t a high tech cyber compromise of my account information. Our checking and savings accounts weren’t hacked. In fact, the technology used was pretty old school to hear the experts tell it.
To understand how this happened, I kind of need to lift the covers a bit.
Don’t worry, you folks have probably seen worse.
“No P.G. we haven’t.”
Okay that’s harsh.
Anyway, when my wife and I set up our accounts many years ago, we barely had enough to open them. Yeah, we were a couple of broke ass individuals living paycheck to paycheck.
So, we set up account notifications which would constantly remind us just how bad off we were. We loved receiving those weekly — you’re broke asshole — emails from the bank.
In an effort to stave off getting deeper in debt from insufficient fund charges, and extra processing fees from the rubber checks, we set up overdraft protection from a savings account.
In order to do this, we had to deposit all the extra money (there really wasn’t any) we could muster up. It was a move (my wife’s idea of course — she’s the smart one in the family) which saved our financial asses.
Over time, our money management woes lessened and our income grew (don’t know how, we raised four daughters) to the point we were able at least to pay the bills on time and not go in the hole every flipping week.
Both me and the missus forgot we even had overdraft protection set up. That is, until last week.
After all these years of never using overdraft protection, the evening before my birthday the damned feature again worked as advertised.
But this time it didn’t work in our favor; it worked in favor of those spawns of Satan.
These evil pieces of shit first cleaned out our checking account, then our savings account — programmed to continue feeding the kitty — kept transferring money into the checking account.
Just like it was programmed to do.
Here’s how those low tech pieces of shit pulled it off.
A year and half ago, my wife used to have her hair done by this one particular hair dresser.
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s important. Stay with me.
This particular hair dresser refused to take credit or debit cards and only bartered in cash or check. A year and a half ago my wife wrote the hairdresser the last check she would ever get from us and switched hairdressers.
As Jim Croce once sang “Then the trouble soon began.”
You remember I told you our accounts were never breached? They weren’t, but the hairdresser’s accounts were. These fucking people hacked the woman’s business accounts and pulled down photo copies of a ton of checks.
Yes I said photo copies.
A lot of banks these days have the good sense to redact the routing number and bank accounts on the copies of the checks. A lot of banks have stopped providing snapshots of the checks in lieu of payee and amount information only.
But not the hairdresser’s bank, and the crooks only needed one viable copy to make their evil magic happen. According to the police, they used photo shop, yes fucking photo shop, and “washed” my wife’s check.
These assholes made sure to leave our name and address and the routing numbers and account number intact, but they cleared everything else.
Everything except my wife’s signature.
Then they simply forged the checks with bogus payee names and scribbled indecipherable names on the back then used mobile technology to deposit the checks in multiple accounts.
Only one of the seven checks written had a name we could make out.
Last time I heard, Bob Hope was dead.
So how did we discover all this?
Remember the “you’re broke asshole” notifications? Well, they started popping up on my wife’s phone while I was driving to my side hustle. By the time I got settled, my wife texted me to call her immediately. When I called she’d already logged into the bank and together we came to the conclusion something had gone sideways very fast.
I was able to contact the bank and after a grueling thirty minute discussion where at one point I literally begged them to freeze the account, they transferred me to the bank fraud division.
After another twenty minutes of sweating bullets, the bank fraud division recognized something my wife and I already knew.
Our account had been compromised.
No shit Sherlock.
I can’t begin to express the relief which washed over me when I heard the woman tell me the account was locked and no further debits would be processed against the account.
She did go on to say upon verification of fraud the bank would refund our money.
Okay we were able to stop the bleeding. Now we had to suture the wound. My wife and I spent the following day at the bank filling out volumes of paper work and opening up a new checking account.
That very same day we got every bit of our money back.
Here’s what the bank told us.
The asshole (they didn’t use the word asshole, but I sure as hell did) criminals didn’t bother to check their own bank accounts after they did their nasty deeds.
This was important.
The very minute we reported the problem and our bank agreed these were fraudulent charges, they debited the multiple accounts they’d just credited and took all the money back.
IN YOUR FACE ASSHOLES!!!!
But those dumb asses weren’t done yet. The day after my birthday I had to fly out of town on business.
So they tried again.
And my wife was forced to go back to the bank and deny the charges.
And the next day they tried again.
Again my wife had to go back to the bank.
All told, my wife and I made one trip to the bank, one trip to the police department and my wife was forced to make three additional trips to the bank.
All within a one week period.
We will close that account out for good tomorrow first thing.
So, here’s a few suggestions on how to prevent or at least how to catch this shit early enough so you don’t get the short end of the stick. Keep in mind they’re only suggestions.
You all are grownups and can come to your own conclusions on the topic.
- If you write checks stop writing checks
- If your vendor won’t take anything but checks or cash, find another vendor or make sure you have cash
- If you have overdraft protection cancel that shit and learn to manage your money better
- If you don’t check your bank every single morning, start checking your bank every single morning
- If you don’t have notifications turned on, turn that shit on and set the balance notification for a higher amount
- If anything hits your checking account you think may be bogus or you don’t recognize, contact your bank immediately (it’s better to appear stupid than to be stupid…and more broke than you are currently)
I’d like to say it’s all behind us, but I can’t. There’s still an issue with all the changes I have to make to our electronic payment software. You see, we pay all our bills electronically and with the account change it means we’re still not out of the woods. Every credit and debit recorded in our house is registered inside our electronic book keeping software.
Including automatic deposits from my side hustle, from Medium and oh Lord, even my social security checks.
But we’ll get there. It’s going to be painful, and this wound may take awhile to heal. Eventually it will end up being nothing more than a scar, a badge of courage, of resilience in the face of…
It’s going to be a — remember when those assholes tried to steal all our money? — memory which will make both my wife and I sick every time we think about it.
Let’s keep in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org