Just like a large percentage of the population, I am anticipating a tax refund. The Federal Government told me that they expected it to appear in my account on the 12th, which is tomorrow. So today I checked my bank account online to see if it was showing yet as pending. It wasn't. But when checking the account, I happened to look down at the balance on my bank-issued credit card and was surprised at the balance.
See, that particular card is my "paranoid card." I use it only for online purchases, because of the fear that someone might manage to steal my account number when I shop online. I still shop, but I reserve one credit card for the purpose of paying so that I don't have multiple account numbers out there in cyberspace. Lately I've been thinking that I'm a little silly to do this, since I've never had a problem with online shopping or stolen credit card numbers.
That all changed today. When I pulled up the account, I saw two charges: one was some sort of UK charge and the second was a processing charge that was applied because I used my credit card over in another country. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I might have charged that was overseas and how in the world it had come up that I had actually BEEN overseas when I made the purchase. I called the bank and got a representative.
Ready for the funny part? She informed me that this particular company was an ESCORT SERVICE in the UK!!!!! I assured her that I had NOT made this charge and she transferred me to the fraud department. After quite a hold, I got another representative who was a bit more surly. She asked me if I was absolutely sure I had not made this charge. When I said I was, she then told me that the company also had a dating service division and asked, "And your husband? Could HE have made the charge?" Wow. He happened to be standing right here, so I informed her he absolutely did not. Not only would he NOT have used a dating/escort service, but he SURE has not traveled to the UK anytime recently, or anytime in his LIFE, for that matter! Insane!
Sadly, this is the third time that Identity Theft has reared its ugly head in my life. Many years back, a coworker of my husband copied all of his personal information from the work computer system onto an application for a cell phone and obtained a phone in his name at her address. She charged up thousands of dollars in calls and stuck us with the bill, conveniently disappearing when it went to collections. We ended up having to settle, though if we had had the money, we could have easily fought it in court (she had taken a cell phone contract out of the provider's office which the contract outlined was forbidden), but we just couldn't do it. Then just a few years ago, I signed up for a Capital One credit card and before it even arrived in the mail, someone charged a new computer on it! That was quickly fixed, but I admit that I have never felt safe using that credit card after the experience!
If you've never experienced an incident of identity theft, consider yourself very lucky! But be careful anyway. Always check your accounts regularly and report any suspicious charges right away. It will probably be easy to fix, but it's still an unsettling experience. And never take anything for granted...just because it's never happened to you, it still might.
Consider this your Public Service Announcement of the day. :-)