I guard myself from debit card fraud. Most of the time, the folks perpetuating the con do not even need to resort to elaborate means to pull it off. I was standing at an ATM off-base recently and a Sailor left with a handful of money. Except he did not finish the transaction. So the machine, with his data, was open to me.
Early on in my Navy career, I noticed there was a tone of voice that seniors gave to juniors. As a way to haze them verbally. But also as a means to make it painful, so they will think twice about facing the ramifications again. So I asked the young, dumb Sailor. Hey, you just gonna leave the machine open? Your not going to exit out of it? Stupidly, he returned and logged-off. What if I were not there? Sure, the Japanese locals are honest to a fault. But still. . .
And for the second incident, I was at one of the excellent vending machines on-base. (Bottles of green tea are my kryptonite.) I grabbed two of them and started back up on my base run. And as I jogged past the ATM, sure enough, some clown did the exact same thing. He did not exit out of his transaction. It is possible that with the on-base machines, you must enter in your PIN again, but I was not sure. So I exited out for him and ran him down. Hey, you just gonna go around leavin’ your debit account open for anyone? Once again, sheepish was on the plan-of-the-day. Whoops, he replied.
Care is needed when using an ATM. There are conmen out there lurking:
“Hello, Mr. Welch. Visa Card Services here.” That was how my nightmare started one Sunday morning. I was hungover, sitting on the sofa, when the landline rang. I was surprised because I’d only given the number to about three people. The person on the other end of the phone, Mark, told me there had been a number of fraudulent transactions on my bank account since midnight, adding up to about 1,100 pounds ($1,663). I’d never heard of Visa Card Services before, but then, I’d never had money stolen like this before. Maybe this is what happens?
Mark then confirmed the last genuine withdrawal I’d made, at the Barclays bank opposite Highbury & Islington station in London. He gave me a reference number and told me to ring the telephone number on the back of my card. I did just that, quoted the reference number, and was able to speak with someone who knew all about the supposed fraud. These cunning tricksters had apparently cloned my card at the Barclay’s ATM, then treated themselves to a few things in the Apple Store. Something didn’t ring true about the whole thing—why would someone with a stolen card only spend 400 pounds (about $600) in the Apple Store, for starters? Still, I watch enough alarmist consumer-affairs TV,—the kind of program presented in the U.K. by an estuary gargoyle named Dominic Littlewood—to know that these things happen.
The person now helping me, Rajesh Khan in HSBC’s card protection department, had all my details: full name, date of birth, and crucially, my address. When he said a courier was on the way to collect my card for further examination, I didn’t need to tell him where I lived. I initially flinched at the idea, but when Rajesh explained that the bank’s fraud team needed to analyze the chip, it made sense. After all, I’d phoned the bank myself—this was no cold call, and he had all my details already. That’s probably also why I typed my PIN number into my telephone keypad of my phone when Rajesh asked me to.
You gotta pay attention. . .