Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Back to the Good Ol' Days of Cash
I check my balances every day. This morning I checked the balance in a credit card account of mine and the first odd thing was the balance was over the limit. Now I knew I was near the limit, but didn't think I had made any purchases that would pull it over.
I opened the detail and right at the top of the list were three strange transactions. Each had the same date and each was paid to the same name, Sunshine something or other. Miami appeared at the end of the name. Two transactions were for $100 and the other was $87 and change. I knew this was nothing I bought.
Although it was only around six o'clock in the morning I immediately called the card company and very quickly was actually speaking to a real person. I told them of the three suspicious entries, which they could see on their computer. She told me they were from a gas station. I never heard of Sunshine Gas Station. I told her it said something about Miami and she said this was the home company headquarters.
They put a hot stop on the card, closed my account for my security and issued me a new card. Of course it will take 10 business days to receive my new card. She told me the Fraud Division would investigate the transactions and look at video in hopes of identifying the crooks.
This does not make one feel very secure and there is also some inconvenience involved. At least I won't lose the money. However, that matter of trust is going to be hard to overcome.
You see, it is a matter of what I use this card for. I am a Senior on Social Security. Social Security does not pay you on a date certain. It pays you on a day, such as the fourth Wednesday of the month. This creates a cash flow problem. The fourth Wednesday can float almost a week from month to month. The fourth Wednesday can be as early as the 22 if the first Wednesday of a month is the 1, but shift one day and have Thursday be the first and your check won't come until the 28th.
However, one's bill tend to be pinned to a specific date and they don't float.
This would not be a problem except my wife and I eat out often. This was causing me a cash flow problem and I would have to take money from other accounts now and again to keep in the black. Then one day I got smart. If I pay for the meals with this credit card, I can pay the total amount at a set date when I know I have the money and the cash flow problem is solved.
But now I have that trust problem. You see, I generally only use this card to pay for our restaurant meals and we tend to only go to a couple of regular dining spots. So, how did these crooks get my card number? As much as I hate to think that there was someone dishonest on the staff of one of these restaurants where we have eaten for years, it is possible and also a common ruse. After all, at a restaurant the wait person takes your card out of your sight when you pay your chit. It would be easy to write down the number and security code during this absence from your sight. Also, someone could have a small scanner in their pocket and simply swipe your card and record the data.
Now we did have an odd thing this past week. Last Thursday we went out to our favorite spot. While we were there a vicious thunderstorm struck the area. The lights went out in the restaurant for a brief time. All the TVs lost their feeds and for a bit their computers were down. When we came to paying for the meal we were told by the wait person that they had lost the Internet. They would have to write my information. This was on July 3. The transaction date of the fraudulent transactions was July 5. I do not want to accuse anyone or anyplace, so maybe this was mere coincidence.
A few days later, just to add to the oddity, I received a call from the card company's fraud department to verify recent transitions. The ones they gave me when I asked were of this restaurant and correct amounts. I thought maybe the call was triggered by the charge from there coming in on a written format rather than electronically. I wonder about the coincidence of that call as well.
At any rate, now having lost trust in my dining institutions I am falling back to the good ol' days when I was young. I will carry cash and pay with cash rather than chance anymore credit card shenanigans. It's sad to say we come to this, but we have.