Friday, December 20, 2013

The Disruption of Identity Theft

Last weekend, my wife, Annette, and I were the victims of identity theft. The incident is still under investigation, so I’ll not reveal all the details. Our incident was not as serious as some, but it completely disrupted our lives for several days.

On Saturday, we held a book sale and signing in Norfolk, Virginia. We had the best sales of any similar event to date, so left for Williamsburg feeling very satisfied. After fighting through a driving rainstorm, we arrived safely at home. Annette tallied up the finances of the event and them did some work on line. On a whim, she checked our bank accounts. Red flags began slapping her in the face.

Someone had gotten into one of our credit card accounts and advanced a large sum of money to our checking account. They were in the process of transferring smaller sums from that account into other bogus accounts at the bank, then withdrawing it at once. We were fortunate that Annette discovered the scam so soon. A frantic call to the bank’s 24-hour number got all the accounts frozen and stopped the hemorrhage. After we filed a fraud report, the bank made us whole. The bank, however, is currently out several thousand dollars.

Then the cleanup began.  Since this was a sophisticated hacking, we had to close all our accounts with the bank and open new ones. Consequently, we had to contact all the sources of our revenue and change the account to which our direct deposits are made. Even more complicated, we had to contact every establishment to whom we had agreed to automatic drafts from our accounts and change them also.  This has taken the better part of a week to accomplish. The big bugaboo was avoiding additional charges for returned and late billings. We’re not sure that we’ve plugged all the holes yet. We still have to contact all the charities that take monthly amounts from our credit cards. One of our remaining headaches is that we have to physically go to our bank branch to conduct business until the changes are all in place. Another requirement of the bank was that our computers be completely scanned for viruses.  We use have an Imac computer, but the scan did find some weaknesses, which have been repaired.

Internet banking can be a wonderful convenience. Vulnerabilities to hacking can turn it into a nightmare. As violated as Annette and I feel, our experience must pale before the realities of people who have had new credit cards and accounts opened in their names by identity thieves. Many have had their credit completely wrecked by these heartless criminals. We have credit monitoring in place to spot such activity early. Everyone who uses the Internet for financial transitions should do likewise. I leave you with one further piece of advice: NEVER write a check and use a credit card issued by the same bank at a single establishment on the same day!

Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One taking place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

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