Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Well, someone has stolen our debit card number.  The good news is, we should be able to get all the money back.  I went to the bank today to fill out paperwork requesting the fraudulent charges be removed from our account, and we should have a refund within a week or so.

Still!  It's a scary thought to know that someone stole something from us, and we don't even know for sure how they did it.  Whoever did it used our card number on a gaming site, most of the charges were only $20 or so, totaling $255.  That's the kind of charge that can be made without having anything but the card number, and without having to have anything mailed to an address that could be traced back.  How did they get our card number, though?

  • Paying our bills online.  We pay everything except our homeowner's association fees and one car payment online, and have for several years.  This seems an unlikely possibility, since all the sites are big companies with (supposedly) secure, encrypted transactions.  I don't see how it would be possible for anyone to steal just OUR info from a site like that, it seems like the site itself would have to be hacked, and I haven't heard about anything like that happening.
  • Swiping our card at Walmart.  This seems unlikely, too, especially since we always use it as a debit transaction, and put our PIN number in.
  • Our computer being hacked.  I guess I can't say that this is impossible, but we have a Mac, and we are behind a firewall, and I would assume anyone who was able to access our whole hard drive would see how much we have in our account and take all of it, instead of only $255.  I would think...?  Not that we have hundreds of thousands, but we have more than $255.
  • Swiping our debit card at a gas station.  Apparently it's fairly common for thieves to put a skimmer device on the card reader, and a tiny pinhole camera above the number pad, and they take the info from the stripe on your card and your PIN number and create a whole new debit card.  But again, if someone had our debit card, they could just go to an ATM and clean us out -- accessing both our checking and our savings accounts, if they went to the right bank -- instead of just spending $20-$30 at a time on a website.
  • Handing our card to a server at a restaurant, who then walked away to charge it.  I really feel like this one is the most likely.  Greg went to talk to the manager a few days ago, who vehemently denied that it could have happened, and insisted that paying bills online is the real danger.  Right.  I didn't expect him to admit that it could have been his employees (or, for all we know, him), but we wanted to bring it to his attention.

I am looking on the bright side, and I'm glad that it wasn't worse.  I'm glad that we will get all our money back, even though it's inconvenient not to have debit cards for a week or so until we get new ones.

Greg bought groceries this past weekend, using a CHECK.  Weird.  It turns out they have new electronic check-paying technology, and all he had to do was sign it, then their register printed on it all the info and recorded the check number and account number, and they handed him back the check.  Today it came out of our checking account.  Remember back in the olden days, when you'd get an envelope of your used, cleared checks mailed back?  Those days are gone.  Yay for technology!

Except now I am going to be paranoid about handing my debit/credit card over to anyone at a bar or restaurant.  We may have to start actually getting cash to take when we go out.  Cash!  What a thought.