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Getting scammed.

June 20, 2017

Photo on 6-13-17 at 9.46 AM

June 20, 2017

Remember how I said we enjoyed our trip to D.C. so much?  The memory of watching our eldest grandson graduate high school still makes me shiver with happiness.  He graduated from a high school named after Walter Johnson, pitcher for the Washington Senators.

However, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a bit of trouble on our trip.  A large bit, actually.

Day before yesterday, Sunday morning — our phone registered the call at 8:17— I got a call from “Chase Fraud,” a mechanized call asking me to confirm who I was, that I had a VISA credit card, that I had made some ATM withdrawals in Washington D.C., like that.  I confirmed that I was, that I had.  I had my card safely in my wallet.  I had used the card several times in D.C.  We had been back in Montana about a week.

We thought no more about it until yesterday, when P. noticed two $403 and one $103 ATM charges on our on-line bank statement.  (P. keeps a close watch.)  She noticed that our balance jumped nearly a $ thousand in one day.  Then she saw three ATM withdrawals, each with a $3 charge.

She asked me if I had perhaps gotten that much from an ATM in D.C.?  Perhaps the charges against our card didn’t show up for a week?  Well, the answers were no and no.  We had been swindled!

I went to work yesterday, so P. called the credit union that issued us the credit card.  They inactivated the card.  The woman told her she wanted to speak to me.  I called her back during lunch.  Had I withdrawn $400 twice and $100 once?  I assured her I withdrew $100 at least once, but never $400.  This just muddied the water a bit.

The woman at the credit union said for the charges to be fraudulent someone would have had to physically use my credit card and punch in my pin.  That was unheard of, she said.  P. told her nonetheless, we wouldn’t pay the extra $909 because they were fraudulent charges.

In the end, an officer at the credit union agreed to pay all but $150 of the $909.  She said we had been the victim of a credit card “skimmer.”

I didn’t believe it at first, but here’s how it works:  someone fastens a card reading device over the card slot in an ATM.  They also put a cellphone-size camera on something like an information rack on the ATM.  That’s how someone steals your credit card magnetic stripe information and pin.

I remember now.  The slot on the ATM was plastic and bright green and almost too deep for my card.  What I didn’t know was that I was enabling someone else to make a duplicate card.  Moreover, the ATM was on Wisconsin Avenue, right on the street, rather than inside a bank.  (I had asked at a bank, and was directed to the ATM on the street.)

Improbable as it seemed at first, someone created a counterfeit credit card, a duplicate of mine, and used it to get nearly $ thousand from an ATM on my charge account.

Earlier today someone tried twice more to get money using my inactivated credit card.

I learned the following tips to prevent getting scammed.

  • Never use an ATM that is in an unsupervised location, such as on a street.  Find one in a bank or other business.
  • Use a card with a chip, not just a magnetic stripe.
  • Check to see if the card slot has been tampered with.  Does it look different from the rest of the ATM?  Wiggle it.
  • When inserting and withdrawing your card, jig it in and out to foil surreptitious card skimmers.
  • Always cover your hand that punches in your pin, even if nobody is around to watch.

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