Todays guest post comes from a loyal Punch Debt In The Face commenter. David is a student of personal finance, economics, and he is one bada$$ mother lover. He’s done some writing of his own before, but is currently in between blogs. If you like what you read I guess you’ll have to subscribe to my feed to keep track of his comments 🙂
There are a lot of articles that tell you how to keep your bank account safe, but do you know what to do when it’s been compromised? I didn’t – until last Saturday.
I was checking my account (like I do almost every day), to see if some transfers had finally processed. I keep track of all my accounts in a spreadsheet, and it bugs me when my total doesn’t match the bank’s.
Imagine my surprise, when all the transfers had gone through, but the total still didn’t match. Then I saw it. There was a mystery $20 charge. At first, I thought “$20? It’s probably nothing”. It was a nice, round number, so maybe I had forgot about something. An ATM trip, perhaps. Then I looked at the charge more closely, and it was from an out-of-state store, that I definitely did not visit or order from. So what to do now?
I called up my bank, and explained the potentially fraudulent charge. I say “potentially”, because the charge was still pending, and had not cleared yet. The representative I spoke with was friendly and attentive. However, I did not like his advice. He said that since the charge was still pending, there was nothing he or I could do about it. There was always a chance it was a mistake, and would be reversed. I asked again if there was anything that could be done. He said no. I thanked him and ended the call.
I wrote down the time that I called, along with the name of the representative I spoke with. From what I had read on the Consumerist, it was important to have these details if I had more problems and needed to call back. But I realized I didn’t have the representatives last name, so I decided to call back and speak with someone else. I’d probably get the same advice, but at least I could get their full name.
Then it hit me. If I was so nervous about my account being hacked, why didn’t I just cancel my checking card? I called my bank back up, and said that I had reason to believe someone was using my card number and wanted to cancel it. “No problem.”, they said. I’d have a new card in a few days.
If I had listened to the first representative, I would’ve had to wait another four days (from Saturday until Tuesday) to take action if there indeed was someone using my account. That would’ve meant four more days for someone to utilize their unauthorized access to my account. Luckily for me, the charge was reversed – it was just an accident. But I still learned some valuable lessons from this.
1. If you don’t get the answer you want, try again
This applies anywhere in customer service, especially with money. No one will care about your money as much as you will.
2. It’s important to check your accounts regularly
The sooner you know about someone stealing from your account, the sooner you can stop it, and the better the response you’ll get from banks and merchants.
3. If you do think someone has accessed your account, take every possible step you can to keep it from happening again
This is one of the few times with money that it would be best to make a knee-jerk reaction and go too far. Did I need to cancel my card? Maybe not. But the inconvenience it caused me pales in comparison to the trouble it could’ve caused me if someone really was stealing from my account, and I waited four days.
4. You do need credit cards in case of emergencies
I was out of town when I had to cancel my bank card. Luckily I had a credit card with me. A credit card that I will pay off in full at the end of the month, of course.
So that’s my story about the time I almost was a victim of credit card fraud. Luckily for me, it turned out to be nothing. You may not be as lucky though – make sure you know how to recognize fraud, and what to do when you spot it. Otherwise, you might be giving a crook a free four-day pass to your money.