I know this will probably sound like I am being a little bit overdramatic, but I was recently taken advantage of and was, well, violated. I had my sense of security taken from me and I have now been made to feel vulnerable. I am on edge and I cannot seem to settle down. All this over 99 cents.
It happened yesterday without me even knowing it. Yesterday, overall, it was a rather uneventful day. I worked my shift at my job and then headed home. I texted my wife to let her know I would be stopping for gas on the ride there. I tried to station closest to work. No luck. All of the pumps were being used with lines of cars waiting for their turn. It was in preparation for the snowstorm we were expecting through the night and morning hours I assumed. I went to the next station. Same story. I left there and tried the one closest to home this time. Success. There was an open pump with my name all over it. I pulled in, pumped my gas and headed home. Mission accomplished. Little did I know, that simple act would cause such a headache..
You see, as I was checking my bank account online tonight, I found an irregularity. I had an unexplained charge on my account. It wasn’t big deal to me at first, just a pending charge of $.99. That’s right; Ninety-nine cents. Big deal, right? Maybe one of my kids downloaded an app or a game or something. But then I noticed the source. It was from Apple.com. To many people, this is not a big deal either. It could have been a song downloaded on iTunes or maybe something else from them. Except…I don’t have an Apple.com account. I don’t even have an active iTunes account anymore. I haven’t had one in years. So, someone charged $.99 to my account without my knowledge or permission.
I was racking my brain for the longest time trying to figure out how this could have happened. I even questioned if it was one of my kids doing something without me knowing. But then my wife asked me the question of which gas station I used. I told her it was the local one and she said, “Uh-oh, that’s the one that people have been getting their credit and debit card information stolen from.” Apparently on a local Facebook group that she’s part of (I’m not on Facebook myself) she had learned of people getting their financial information stolen by illegal card readers attached to the gas pumps at this location. I am not 100% certain, but I think this is what happened to me.
I was in full-blown panic mode after this. I am guessing that the $.99 charge was a test to see if the card was working for whoever it was that decided to steal it. It was a small enough amount that if someone wasn’t checking regularly, it wouldn’t be noticed missing from a bank account. I just happened to be checking my account to see if a check I had written out a few weeks out had cleared yet. It was then I noticed this mystery charge right at the top of my statement. The questions started coming after that. What else have they tried to charge? When can I expect my account to be depleted completely? What do I do next? I was a bit frantic if I’m being honest.
I got the customer service number for my bank and called it. After being connected to what I assume was a call center in downtown New Delhi, I pleaded my case and asked for help. The person on the other end of the line, whose named I couldn’t understand, was polite and helpful. He calmed me down and explained that I probably did indeed have my account information stolen, but I was one of the lucky ones. This charge, the only unexplainable one on my account, was still on hold and was for less than a dollar. The simplest solution to prevent further loss was to immediately deactivate my debit card and have a new one issued. This means that, even though I may be charged the $.99 if it clears through Apple.com, any further attempts to steal my money would be denied. Any charges that might be attempted to be put on the old card would be instantly declined.
I was relieved that I caught this before being in near-financial ruin, but I am still a bit shaken up. You hear of identity theft and credit card numbers being stolen all the time, but you never expect it to happen to you in a small town in a small state. But, as I found out today, it can happen anywhere to anyone. After shutting down the thief’s access to my money, I was then burdened with the task of changing anything and everything linked to that card. All of my online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. All of those were paid by that card and were on automatic renewal. All of my utility and cell phones providers had to be contacted. All of those were linked to a now disactivated card as well. After about a dozen or so accounts that I had to update were updated, I was finished. But was I?
You see, it doesn’t feel completely over after you have had something stolen from you. I assume this is how people feel after coming home to a house that’s been broken into. Your sense of security and comfortability are gone. You wonder if you have done everything to stop this from happening again. Is your money safe? Is someone still waiting to spend your mortgage payment on themselves? I have this sense that I’m missing something or I forgot to do something. I keep checking my account to make sure nothing else has changed and no more money is missing. It’s exhausting.
The person representing my bank assured me that we’ve done everything to stop this thief dead in his tracks. If that pending charge of ninety-nine cents clears, at that point I just have to call the bank back and they will do a full investigation as to where that money went and deposit it back into my account if they can determine it was a fraudulent charge. I am not at all worried about less than a dollar. I am concerned about this happening to someone else or even to me again. I will be following up on this with the bank and I will be alerting my local police department to the situation. Now, I just need to relax and let this blow over…if I can. My money should be fairly secure but you never know when the next criminal is waiting at the pump or at the grocery store to steal your hard-earned money. *sigh* Sometimes I really can’t stand the people of this world.