A bit of excitement today (Tuesday) as I got to balancing our checkbook in the early part of the evening!
I noticed a $0.01 charge on the bank website that I didn’t recognize from about a week ago. The electronic check image said the check was for “Future Debit Verification” and in place of my signature it simply had my name typed. In the place where my address would normally go there was some address in Indiana, which I promptly looked up on whitepages.com and found was a seemingly random residential home.
The “check” had a phone number on it next to a bit of text that said it could be called in the event of an error. I called, and got a “service rep” immediately. I explained the odd “check” and he very quickly–and very strangely–told me that if the check was charged to me by mistake I could give him the reference number at the bottom and it would be cancelled and refunded to me, plus an additional $5 would be sent to me as compensation for the error. It all sounded funny to me and he seemed way too quick to recognize it as an error without any evidence. I told him that I’d hate to cancel it if it was something we had actually purchased–we’d recently bought some new Bible software on line, for instance–as I knew of other (legitimate) circumstances in which a $0.01 debit verification charge was made, and I was simply interested in knowing what it was for. He explained that they were just a billing verification company and then gave me a website I could go to where I could enter the reference number and receive an explanation by e-mail of the charge. However, he also said that if I did not cancel the charge soon, there would be additional charges for a “subscription.” I followed his advice (which, now, I wish I hadn’t in that I gave the website my e-mail address and wonder what may come of it) and the website informed me that I would receive a response in 24 to 48 hours.
Still bothered by the whole thing, I googled some of the information on the check image and found a LOT of complaints made over the last couple of weeks concerning this scam. Many people reported being charged $0.01 on a “check” that had their name but a fake address and then later (after not noticing it the initial charge) being charged almost $30 a month straight out of their checking account.
I immediately called my bank, and the nice fellow I spoke to was, sadly, very familiar with this exact scam. He suggested that I get over to my bank (which, thankfully, is open after working hours) and immediately close that checking account and open a new one, as it was clear that my account information was compromised and that our (meager) funds were in real danger. So, Beautiful Wife and I did just that.
Thankfully, the bank manager who handled the change for us said that there was no evidence that our electronic or card information was compromised–whoever got the account number got it off of a real check, apparently. He said that this sometimes happens when you give someone a check and, instead of going to a reputable bank to cash it, the recipient goes to a “fast cash” place, which not only “cashes” the check for them (at a premium) but which also, in some cases if they are not responsible businesses, can be connected to shady characters who then sell the account info for extra cash. (I should add that he did not, in any way, imply that every “fast cash” place is staffed with immoral folks–he was simply presenting a possibility.)
Next will come the hassle of changing every online account I have to receive payments from the new account, changing the direct deposit information, etc., etc. The conveniences of our modern world do, indeed, come with the occasional price! (And as we know, TANSTAAFL!)
So no tragedy has ensued, and I thankfully noticed it quickly. I noticed on the complaint site that no one had yet complained to the Federal Trade Commission about the matter, but I think that I will send them what I can in the event that the perpetrators might be caught (or at least stopped) and a few other people saved the grief. Has anyone out there ever made such a complaint? How do you go about it?
(And, by the way: Kudos to Fifth-Third Bank! From the customer service rep on the phone who took my call to the folks at the local branch, the employees took the circumstance very seriously, knew exactly what was going on, and were terribly kind and understanding with us as they resolved the matter quickly and smoothly. They really helped to make an unpleasant experience less unpleasant.)