Ok folks… where do I begin? Last week overall really REALLY sucked. However, Monday was a fantastic holiday spent with the family and From Russia with Love, and Tuesday I spent a total of 12 hours working between the hours of 7:30 am and midnight, nothing out of the ordinary or too exciting. The real fun begins with Wednesday. Let's start there:
When I went to the gas station to get my coffee, like I do every morning on my way to school. When I went to make my purchase, it turns out my credit card was declined. Assuming banks are human and can make a mistake here and there, I thought “I will just go to class and deal with it after. It’s probably something stupid”.
After class, I got on the computer at the Physics Library, and looked at the online banking information. To my surprise, there were 2 different charges of $100 each from a store in El Paso , Texas . I thought that quite odd, considering I have never been to Texas . How could this be?
Some asshole has my credit card number.
My first call was to the bank to report the fraud, and to cancel my card numbers, both debit and credit. After a lengthy conversation, my numbers were canceled, and I needed to file a fraud report with the police department. Being downtown already, I thought I would go into the nearest police station to get the information for the bank. I left the Physics building and began the walk to my car, pondering how the hell someone could get that number, considering the card was in my possession the whole time.
Once I got to my car, a realization hit me like a ton of bricks. No, it was not that I figured out who has my card information, but the fact that I have no cash… And no credit or debit cards.
And I am in a pay lot.
I drove up to the parking attendant and explained my situation, and just asked for a ticket that I could pay later, which is usually what happens. But in this case, no. the girl asked for my driver’s license, and copied down some information, which took a while. Then this lovely conversation took place:
Parking Attendant: “I need to take pictures of your car”
Me, a little puzzled: “ok…”
Parking attendant: “I need pictures of your license plates and VIN number.”
Me: “Uh… ok. Would you like me to pose in front?”
She commenced taking the pictures, and my eyes wondered into the rear view mirror. There were two cars behind me, and I saw the drivers in each rolling their eyes, and making obviously frustrated faces. The kind of frustrated gestures one only makes in hopes someone (me) is looking.
Embarrassed, I finally drove off with the ticket. For 3 dollars. That I now have to drive all the way back up and pay later.
Downtown, I walk into the police department, and I find the general “icky” ambiance, and a large window in front made of 4-inch thick glass and no one there. To the left was another window, also with the same glass, and someone talking behind it. I made my way to the window, and said I need to fill out a fraud report. Pointing to the other window, he said “see the officer there”
I looked over my shoulder to the empty booth with the thick glass, and thought “ok, fine.”
The officer finally showed himself, and I explained my situation. His first question was “do you live here in the city?”
My reply was “no, I was just on my way down from school, and thought I would stop and try to take care of this.”
Officer, annoyed: “no, you need to go through [city of my residence] police department.”
Again, I thought, ok, fine. I have to go home anyway, I know where it’s at, and I will take care of it then. But first, I need to have my laptop swept for viruses. I got home, grabbed my laptop and charger, and made my way over to the computer store. I dropped it off without any problems, and was told that it might be a couple of days. I told them I was fine with that. Now, it was off to the police department. I arrived at the police department, and when I went in, there was an officer standing by a metal detector and an x-ray machine, like the ones at the airport. Behind him, there was another room, filled with booths and windows of that same 4-inch thick glass, and a phone in the corner. The officer had watched me come in, and asked how he might be able to help me. I told him about the events of the day, and that I needed to fill out a fraud report as instructed by the bank. The officer then told me that I had to go through the El Paso police department, and that there was nothing they could do about it. He told me to call dispatch on the phone in the other room, and get the number for the El Paso police department. I got to the phone, dialed the number he gave me, and a young girl answered the phone. She did not sound like she could have been any more than 16 years old, and had the mentality of a 12 year old. this was the conversation that ensued, after she answered the phone:
Girl: "[city of my residence] police and fire dispatch, this is Girl, how may I help you?"
Me: "Yeah, this is going to sound kinda strange, but I need the phone number to the El Paso , Texas police department."
Girl, a little off guard: "Umm... I don't have that... and I can't look it up. Umm... we had our internet... um... taken away. I don't have umm... like Google or anything to get that. You can't do that yourself?"
Me; confused, annoyed and loosing all faith in humanity: "I suppose I will have to then. Thank you."
I got out of the police department, and made my way over to the nearest branch of my bank to get new card numbers, and cards that work. That went off without a hitch fortunately. That is, without a hitch until I asked the bank teller I was working with to find the number for the El Paso police department. I explained my day, and got the phone number at the bank. I also got the numbers to the three credit bureaus to put the fraud alert on my social number just to be safe.
Back at home, I called one of the credit bureaus to place the alert. The automated machine that placed the alert said that the other two have been informed as well. I wanted to be sure. So I still requested to speak with a representative. She assured me that the alert would be forwarded to the other two bureaus, and not to worry about that. Then, she tried to sell me some $14.95 per month program for credit monitoring and safety crap... all things you can do yourself for free if you know how. She was very persistent, and from the sound of it, she was quite used to talking to scared and panicked people who are willing to throw more money at the problem to feel safe again... blood-suckers. I hung up, and went to the next order of business: Texas .
I made a call to El Paso . This is how that conversation went:
EPPD: " El Paso Police Department, how may I direct your call?"
Me: "Yes, I actually live in [city of my residence], and I need to fill out a fraud report because I have had some charges come through from your city."
EPPD: "Please call this number, xxx-xxx-xxxx"
Me: "thank you."
I called that number she gave me, my second long distance call, and I was told this: "You need to go through your police department there. We can't do anything about that."
Thoroughly annoyed, I drove back to the police department. I was greeted by a different officer by the x-ray machine and metal detector. I had to explain the whole situation to him, and he came back and told me the same thing the other one did: you have to go through El Paso . I said I wanted to talk to dispatch again anyway, and he pointed the way back to the phone:
Girl: "[city of my residence] police and fire dispatch, this is Girl, how may I help you?"
Me: "I need to talk to an officer about some fraudulent charges on my account, and file a report."
Girl: "Where were the fraudulent charges made?"
Me: " El Paso , Texas ."
Girl: "You need to go through the police department there."
Me: "No. I need to talk to an officer here."
Girl: "Ok... can I get a contact number?"
Me: "Sure, xxx-xxx-xxxx. When can I expect a call? I have to go to work soon..."
I am not going to type the rest of that conversation, but rest assured -- it was the same brainless runaround they had been giving me all day. I told them I would deal with it tomorrow, and made my way off to work for the night.
I had 4 things on my ‘to-do’ list.
1. Call police department, get case number for bank.
2. Pick up laptop, because there were no viruses or anything of the like.
3. Go to school, and pay my parking ticket. For 3 dollars.
4. Talk to the bank; get more details on what the next steps were as far as the fraud report and getting reimbursed the $200.
I called the dispatch for the police department. Again, this time with a guy, I went around in circles about which city’s department I had to go through. I told him I did not care-- and to have an officer call me anyway.
Made my way over to the bank, and had a pleasant conversation, and got all the information that I needed. Apparently, the fraud report of the bank that I had to fill out was going to be mailed to me. I also picked up my laptop without any problems. I drove up to school (in horrendous traffic) and paid my parking ticket. For 3 dollars. And went back home.
The officer called me after I got home, and was surprisingly helpful. She gave me her name and a case number, which is what I needed for the bank, and all I cared to get. After getting things settled, I went to work for the evening. When I got home, Mom told me that there was a letter from my bank on my bed. "Great, that got here quick" I thought "that's the fraud report... that I finally have the information for. I can get that done and sent back tomorrow."
And went to bed thinking all was right with the world. That relaxed feeling that one gets when a day's work is done, and all is done well. That feeling would be short lived. That fantastic feeling of accomplishment and "being out of the woods" so to speak is soon to be shattered the next morning when I opened the letter from the bank.
When I woke up, I got some other stuff together to take to the bank; my tuition payment, deposits, etc. and proceeded to open the letter that I thought was the fraud report. As I have hinted, it was not a fraud report.
It was a Missed Payment letter, informing me of an outstanding loan balance... and the resulting late fee.
To make things worse, this was a late notice for a loan I paid off in November. November! Imagine my surprise.
Apparently, the loan did not go away when I made the lump sum payoff online all those months ago, and interest on $0 over the last few months came to one cent. That's right folks; ONE CENT! This is how the missed payment/past due notice/you're a deadbeat/ pay us now asshole letter read:
Normal Scheduled payment: $135.00
Outstanding Balance: $0.01
Late Fee: $15.00
Total Amount Due: $15.01
Frustrated, confused and tired-of-it-all, I made my way to the bank. Again.
When I got to the bank, I went to the teller, and told them I needed to speak to someone about some fraud I have had on my account, and a loan problem I have. They told me to have a seat, and someone will be with me shortly.
Who was I greeted with? Her name was L, and thankfully, she was the nicest I-know-what’s-going-on person. She took care of the loan, and waived the fee, and got me the penny back. We had a good laugh over that. I then proceeded to tell her about the events of the week, and she took a look at my account summary. I told her that I had the $200 charged in El Paso , Texas . The conversation went like this:
Me: “Yeah. It was pretty bad. There were two $100 charges at some hick-ville food mart."
L: “Yes. I see those... but these others are yours then?"
Me, confused: "What others?"
L: "The other three charges. All at 7-11's for $75 each."
Me: "... um... well, shit."
The damn things took a few days to post. The total now is at $425 that sum' bitch has run up on me. Fortunately, L made a fraud report right then and there that I filled out and signed. I did not have the case number, so I had to call her back with that. I went home, and called the dispatch again. This time with a case number and an officer's name to avoid the run around they had been giving me. The officer returned my call, and I reported the additional charges, and got the case number to the bank.
Now, here’s hoping that everything is settled, and life can return to the usual. Felling good again, From Russia with Love took me to the B.A.Sh. just in time to see The Offspring play. Good times.
But the real kick in the pants still remains: I have no Idea how in the hell that rat bastard got my credit card number...