Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


An oportunist's dream...

Posted 10/08/19 (Tue)

We hear about scams all the time. Many of them are telephone scams that annoy the dickens out of us but they seem impossible to trace.

There’s also the theft of identity which is not only annoying, it can destroy a person’s life.

There have been reports of people losing tens of thousands of dollars to scammers who get hold of bank information and use it to their full advantage.

Well, last Saturday, it happened to us. Our farm account got hacked and $495 was removed before the bank got smart and put a temporary hold on the account.

There were actually six transactions; three for $126 each, two for $51 each and an Uber ticket for $19.05.

When I called the bank on Monday, I asked how someone can make a transaction without a card or a check? If I go into a retail store and purchase something, I have to provide a card or write out a check. I have never been able to just rattle off a 16-digit credit card number to pay for something. Besides, you need an expiry date and the three or four-digit security code number on the back of the card.

I asked how someone can get all that information, despite us being vigilant. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

In this case, we traced the transactions to a rental store in New York City. OK, I was at a farmers market in Minot on Saturday and my wife was home with the grandchildren. Besides neither one of us has ever been in New York City.

But it still begs the question, where did this shyster get the information to make those transactions?

My only guess is it was someone who was working in a business in which we used our card. They either wrote down or memorized the numbers and were able to make purchases.

You’d be surprised how these opportunists work. When my brother was in the Marine Corps, someone behind him in a clothing line memorized his social security number when supply asked, used his name and when he got into all kinds of trouble, the MPs arrested my brother for several crimes committed at Camp Lejune, N.C.

The only problem with that was my brother was never at Camp Lejune. His assignment was Camp Pendleton, Calif.

These credit and debit cards are so convenient. Hardly any of us carry cash anymore. We are always using plastic.

But along with that convenience comes the risk of being hacked and ripped off.

When it happens to someone else, we talk about it, curse the bad guys and move on. But when it happens to us, it’s as if we want to draw all our money out of the bank and stuff it in a mattress just so the guys in black hats don’t get it.

This New York City thing is really puzzling, but the worst thing happened to us last year in January when we got a letter from the IRS saying someone filed taxes on our behalf and before a check for $11,000 was issued, the IRS stopped payment on the check.

How’s that for a change of pace? The IRS was actually the good guy in this case and raised the red flag, knowing we didn’t have $11,000 coming in tax returns.

A couple of weeks later, we did receive a check for $11,000 and when I opened the envelope, I said, “Party!” Unfortunately, my wife who works in a bank, said we had to pay it back.

We did and to be real serious about this matter, it took 10 months to get it all straightened out before we got the actual tax return we had coming.

Stay vigilant in your transactions. Be wary of people on the phone asking for information. All too often people, especially the elderly, get caught up in these illegal traps.

And honestly, I can see how easy that can happen. A bright and cheery young lady who calls herself Wendy Wackerman calls from Rochester, N.Y., and tells you that if you don’t purchase two Applebees gift cards and send them to a Yonkers, N.Y., address, the cops will take you to jail and throw away the key.

Sometimes those threats appear to be real. But there’s always a clue you can pick up that will give it away. For instance, the IRS will never threaten you on the phone. They will instead come to your house and take all that money out of your mattress.

Just be very careful when you make any kind of credit or debit card transaction. You just never know who might be watching. There are people out there whose job it is to rip you off.

That’s all they do is steal from people. Wouldn’t that be a conversation piece during the holidays.