Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Do Not Be A Victim of Crime Part 2

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So if you read Part 1, you know that I was a victim of a wallet snatch.  Even if you think this could never happen to you, there are a few things I want you to do.  Sit down and empty out your wallet.  Everything.  Think for one minute what would you most miss if it all disappeared?  The picture of your Grandma?  A note from someone you love?  A receipt for something you really need to return?  Or God-forbid, your Social Security card?  Two of the victims I spoke to had their SS card in their wallet.  So take a little inventory.  If you use primarily your debit card and a credit card, get rid of the rest.  Leave them at home.  I had a Nordstrom's card.  I don't even have a store here, I use it online and when I travel. There was no reason to have it on me, and of course it was of no value to her.   I had bought a new wallet a few month's earlier, and it was kind of thin, so it had only credit and reward cards...but little else.  When I was replacing my debit card and going through the automated set up, it dawned on me, that the PIN for my old debit card was my birthday.  Clearly printed on my driver's license   My perp wasn't that smart, thankfully.  Also, look into the app for your smart phone called Key Ring Rewards Cards.  You can eliminate all those rewards cards stuffing your wallet and littering your key chain.  I had a pack of reward cards in my glove compartment that are gone!  All on my phone.

Now, before you put all that stuff back or put it away, write down every card; the number, expiration and the phone number on the back to call if it is lost.  You can also make a copy of it if that is available.    Most credit card phone systems are automated, and having the card number will get you through faster.  My wallet was stolen on a banking holiday, so no one answered the phone number for me to cancel my debit card.  Thankfully they monitored the spending and called me before they approved her second swipe.  (She was inclined to spend $1500 at a time.  That is unusual behavior.  Had she spent $300 at a time, she would have been busy.)  It would have been so much easier if my husband, who was working at home could pull out a file with all of the card info laid out for him to call these companies.  Also, if you file a police report (which you should) they will need all of the info on those cards.  They will also ask you to describe your cards.  Not all cards are black.  My wallet was stolen in the suburb but the cards were used in the city.  Therefore, I filed 2 police reports and the officers linked them up and shared info on my case.  Her charges could include identity theft, theft (my wallet was expensive), fraud, and grand larceny.

Next, you need to call one of the big credit reporting agencies.  They have an automated system where you can input your SS# and put a fraud alert on it. Do it with one agency and they will make sure it is passed to the other two.  It is a smart first step even if your SS card was not in the wallet.

Next, document every transaction.  Get online and note the date, time, charge amount and any other info you can find.  Get the store name and number so you can call them.  My perp charged everything at a major retailer at the mall.  We called with all of the transaction amounts and the security officer could pull each one up.  He pulled the video at that register and could follow her all the way to her car, and got her plate number.  Her registration led to her driver's license which matched the video.  Easy. It was also rather curious that all the transactions, including the ones declined, all happened at the same register.  A red flag for the retailer.  I contacted my credit cards and bank again to get direct numbers for their fraud departments.  The detective will need copies of the transactions that you will not be able to provide.  If you use American Express, you will be most impressed with the way the system works.  If you use Capital One, prepare yourself for the runaround in India.  I never spoke with a representative who was working in the US, or who could communicate off a script.  This card will be cancelled for good.

After filing the police report, the detective assigned to my case called 2 days later.  I explained everything and told him that the security officer at the store had the tape copied, and it was waiting for him.  The theif was identified that day.  I did some of the work for him, but I refused to sit back and let this go without fighting.  He told me most victims call the credit card companies and move on.  People rarely go to any length to make this stop.  I want to prevent it from happening to you.

This doesn't all happen without  little anxiety.  It is a little frightening to think someone has all your information.  In the case of a stolen purse, you may have your house key in there as well.  I have a security system, but I did call them in for a wireless upgrade.  I admit I sleep a lot better.  I will likely have to testify in court, which I am happy to do.  I couldn't identify the main suspect in a lineup, but that doesn't much matter.  She is readily identified in the video using my cards.  Do not think this can't happen to you.  Instead, take a few precautions to insure if it does, that your recourse will be easy.  Share this information and keep an eye out where you shop to prevent this crime.  I promise, tomorrow we bake!

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