If you didn’t hear the story, Barie had her purse stolen out of her minivan last week while she was working out at the YMCA. Someone smashed in the passenger-side window while the van was sitting in the crowded parking lot around 10:00am in the morning and stole her purse (which was hidden under the front seat). Despite my calls to Bank of America within 30 minutes of the incident to report the stolen purse, the thieves were still able to use the debit card and ID to empty all of the money out of our checking and savings accounts. Here’s what we’ve learned through the process:
- If your purse or wallet is stolen (and both your bank card and your driver’s license are taken), it is NOT enough to cancel the debit card with your bank. A thief can still use your cancelled card and your picture ID to access the money in your accounts. You need to ask for an immediate HOLD to be placed on ALL of your bank accounts with your financial institution, and then as quickly as possible remove all of your funds, cancel your accounts, and open new accounts.
- Do NOT trust people that you talk to through the customer service department of any large bank (through their 1-800 phone service). You will end up talking to someone in a call-center who does not understand the details of how fraud and theft actually work. My advice to you is to immediate go into a local BRANCH and ask to meet with the branch MANAGER. Ask him or her for a list of steps you need to take to protect your money and your identity. Don’t leave until the manager gets on the phone and puts a HOLD on your account and flags your ID in their system.
- The primary way that people steal money from you after they have your debit card and your Driver’s License is to go through the drive-thru lanes at a large bank (where they have 6 or 8 lanes). They choose one of the far-away lanes and have someone who is close to your appearance go through the drive-thru. With your debit card (even a cancelled or expired one) and your ID, they can withdraw money from any account linked to your card by forging your signature.
- Don’t ever leave your purse or wallet in your locked car (even if it is hidden well). Most ID fraud happens based on stolen identification. Barie hid her purse well in our van, and another victim even hid her purse in the back seat of her car. However, the police said that most likely they were being watched as they got out of their vehicles and the criminals saw them leave their purses behind on the way into the YMCA. This crime happens most frequently at work-out facilities where people tend to leave their purse or wallet in the car. Don’t do it!
- If someone uses your identity as though they were you (which is the definition of identity theft), make sure and let the Department of Public Safety and the Policy Department know that you have been a victim of this crime. Often after this happens, people don’t follow-up with law-enforcement to report the details of the identity theft because their bank reimburses the loss to the customer. This is one reason that this crime is so infrequently prosecuted.
- Trust God. This whole experience has been a reminder to Barie and I that everything we have in this life can be taken from us except for our faith in Jesus Christ. No treasure on this earth is as precious to us as the gift of grace that God made possible through Jesus. In addition, we have learned (again) that we must trust God to meet our daily needs. He has been so faithful to us every step of the way, and we give Him all the glory for helping us through this ordeal.