Last Tuesday I went into a gas station for a necessary resupply for my beer shelf in my refrigerator. When I placed my 12 pack of Miller High Life on the counter, however, I got an unwanted surprise.
I had no cash on me, so I swiped my debit card. The little machine in front of me read “DECLINED.” That didn’t make any sense to me, so I pulled up my account balance on my phone. Sure enough, there was plenty of money in my account. Then I took a stubborn streak and tried my card at a few other places. All said “DECLINED.”
The end result and true tragedy of the evening would be a “beerless” night, and learning that I had been a victim of credit card fraud. After calling the bank I learned that the bank’s fraud department had caught three attempted charges to my card, ranging from about $120 to $22.
The bank had then proceeded to block my card. The companies from which the fraudulent charges had come were entities of which I’d never heard. One company was even from France.
I really felt like a victim, as if I had been mugged. The worst part was that I had no idea who had victimized me. In crimes of old the victim usually at least saw the perpetrator. If somebody broke into your house you were afforded the opportunity to shoot the individual. If a victim didn’t see the perpetrator at least local law enforcement investigated and kept the victim abreast of the investigation.
This credit card fraud crime was a crime with no face, an act completed by a cowardly somebody from who-knows-where. That feeling left a really sour taste in my mouth.
Sadly, these sorts of crimes are on the rise in America and right here in Mount Airy. When reading Tom Joyce’s “Police Reports” I almost always see at least one case of credit card fraud right here in our city.
Additionally, I did a story a few months ago about the infamous “Duke Power” scam. A local restaurant owner said that an individual called him threatening to turn off his electricity. The individual on the other end of the line told the business owner that the remedy for the situation was to go to Food Lion, get a prepaid debit card and send the card number to the perpetrator.
Another gentleman called me last week to report a similar scam in which the scammer claims that he or she is the Internal Revenue Service. Luckily, both of these individuals were smart enough not to got pulled in by the scams.
According to the Statistics Brain Institute, 10 percent of Americans were victims of some sort of credit card fraud. Worldwide there were $5.5 billion in fraudulent charges billed to credit cards in 2014. In 48 percent of these cases the perpetrator stole an individual’s card information by way of email.
Last year more than $12 million Americans were victims of identity fraud, and the aforementioned “Duke Power” scam has gotten big enough that the company devotes a page on its website to warn individuals about the scam.
It seems that as technology changes the world, criminals are changing with it. Criminals have learned that, as opposed to an old-fashioned mugging, there is much less risk in this new sort of crime. As criminals change their approach to crime, all of us who make our ways through life in an honest fashion need to adapt to the new criminal enterprises.
I have no doubt that my credit card information was stolen as a result of me being stupid. I had used that card in restaurants in Cancun and even village markets in Afghanistan. My card information could have been stolen by any number of shady individuals as a result of my negligence.
Additionally, I’ve also left my wallet in unsecured lockers at gyms and in my Harley’s saddlebags on a number of occasions. My thought process had always been “who would want to steal my stuff.”
Apparently at least somebody does. It blows my mind that there are folks out there who would rather work hard at not working than just get a job and work. This latest debit card fiasco taught me a couple of things.
Sadly, it lowered my opinion of mankind a little bit. Also, and more importantly, it taught me to take the simple precautions I’m always told to take. Most importantly, I learned to always keep a little bit of cash accessible. Thus, avoiding another “beerless” evening.
Andy Winemiller can be reached at [email protected]