Thursday, May 25, 2017

No Stuff For You

I recently made a Large Purchase.

This is not something I do every day.  The joys of being an academic in modern America do not include wealth or material excess no matter what the uninformed and politically ignorant will tell you, and Large Purchases are not the sort of thing I can afford on a regular basis.  But eventually they become necessary, and so bullets must be bitten and Purchases made.

This is an incredibly stressful thing to me. 

However much that Large Purchase needed to be made, the fact is that it was Large, and spending that kind of money always makes me nervous.  Don’t even ask what I was like when we bought our house, which was several orders of magnitude Larger.  You don’t want to know.  It took me months to get to the point where I was ready to make this particular Purchase, and even once the decision was made and the Purchase sitting there in my little electronic shopping cart, I still hesitated to push the final button.

Stress: not as much fun as it looks on television.

I also made a couple of Auxiliary Purchases while I was at it, items designed to make the Large Purchase more effective and useful and thus postpone the next Large Purchase for even more years than I would have otherwise planned.  I’ve got kids headed toward college.  Long gaps between Large Purchases are a goal these days.

This turned out to be a good move in another way as well, as both of those Auxiliary Purchases were declined by my credit card company.  As was my original Large Purchase, as I discovered when I explored the matter further.

This was odd.

My credit is good.  I don’t make very many Large Purchases.  This makes it relatively easy to pay my bills, and I have not missed a payment in decades, if ever.  I have a credit card that had room for both the Large and Auxiliary Purchases that were made that evening.  Nothing seemed to warrant the situation. 

I called the credit card company to find out what was going on.

It turned out that my track record of not making Large Purchases is so well established that they decided there must be fraud afoot now that one had been made. 

It took about 45 minutes to straighten everything out, particularly since at least one of the denied Auxiliary Purchases I chose to leave denied as I had found a better deal somewhere else moments later when I still thought the problem was with the vendor and not me.  It probably didn’t help much that it took me a while to remember the answers to the security questions (which email is on the account?  Lawsey, I have so many…). 

Eventually the matter was resolved and both the Large Purchase and the appropriate Auxiliary Purchases arrived safely this week.

Except that this week I also got an email from the credit card company announcing that my card had been canceled for fraudulent charges and I should expect a new one sometime soon.

So I called them again, making sure to call the number on my card and not any of the ones in the email because I’m onto that trick.  Most people are.  The following dialogue then ensued:

Didn’t we straighten this out the other day?

Why yes, sir, we did.

So why is my card canceled?

It has not been canceled.  That email must be fraudulent.

[Describes email in detail.]

Well, that doesn’t sound fraudulent, but it is mistaken.  You can ignore it.


On the one hand, I am actually pretty happy that the credit card company is watchful about this sort of thing.  I’ve done the Identity Theft Tango a couple of times and it’s no fun at all.  So I’m not going to complain about them, much as I’d like to do so for having caused me stress.

Because, on the other hand, the real problem is the fact that this sort of thing is necessary these days – that their caution is warranted and the additional stress that this put on me in an already stressful time is just par for the course and indeed commendable.  It’s a sad commentary, really.

So I have my Purchases and to the best of my knowledge my card is intact and unjacked.  For now.

We’ll call that a win.


LucyInDisguise said...

So, we're 268 miles from home - on the occasion of our 25th Anniversary - and my wife suggests that purchasing some fuel for the auto would be a good plan in order to facilitate our arrival at the intended destination. Card denied.

When I called, the sweet and wonderfully helpful person employed in the fraud prevention department at our Credit Union explained that a series of suspicious charges had been made to my card.

On iTunes.

The day prior.

$0.99 X 3 = $2.97.

They found it suspicious that I had not made any charges to iTunes in almost 6 months.

So naturally, they shut off my card.*

Luckily, we had enough cash to get to our destination while they straightened out that mess and had my card turned back on for the weekend.


* NOT, it should be noted, when someone got hold of my number some weeks later and made $68,217.21 worth of charges in 12 cities in 7 states from Oregon to Arkansas in less than 7 hours ... Irony, thy name is Capricious.

David said...

$68k? Wow - those thieves were busy.

I had the gas station experience as well - Kim and I have the same Visa account, and they got suspicious when she used it at home on the same day that I was using it to buy gas on the PA Turnpike on my way to Philadelphia. Yeah, that took some straightening. Fortunately I still had a debit card to get gas, otherwise I'd still be somewhere in western PA waiting for a tow truck.

So far the most anyone has tried to jack my card for has been $4k, and that was entirely Sprint. It was pretty clearly an inside job. We filed a police report and never paid them a dime. I refuse even to consider Sprint as a viable option for anything.

LucyInDisguise said...

Two of the purchases were straight up $28K and $29K for in-person purchases for cars at two different dealerships; one in Ashland, OR and the other in Muskogee, OK at, more or less, the same exact time of day.

Nothing suspicious 'bout that?

As Luck would have it, Sue and I were sitting in the Manager's Office at the Credit Union on an unrelated matter at the time of both (and several of the other) purchases.

As I said - Capricious.