Written by: Katrina Crites
For the third time in less than a year I received a call from my all time favorite 800 number: the fraud detection department at my bank. They were just as pleased to tell me as I was to learn that my debit card was stolen once again. The difference between this and the previous two thefts is that the fraud department didn't catch all the charges before they processed and as a super fun result, our checking account had been drained. Not just drained, but sucked well below the $0.00 mark. Terrific. It was everything I ever wanted in a phone call.
Naturally, the bank asked me about the charges to verify I hadn't made them. Where was my money spent? I won't name names, but all of our hard earned money was spent at a handful of those not-the-top-of-the-crop cell phone companies. Our money was spent on burner phones. And a heck of a lot of them.
Ever heard of a "burner phone?" Per UrbanDictionary.com, a burner phone is:
"A prepaid cellular phone, replaced frequently (weekly) (monthly) to avoid leaving a trail and getting caught up in illegal activities.
Dude you want some of that herb, hit me up on the burner phone."
Cool. So my debit card was probably stolen by a drug dealer or some other terribly unwholesome fella.
The last time my card was stolen, the fraud company shut it down before a $400 charge to a dating site in Cyprus cleared our account. I had to repeatedly tell bankers that I didn't sign up for the service which, as a happily married woman, was slightly embarrassing. That's a somewhat funny story, mainly because they didn't get their lifetime membership to a sketchy dating site and I wasn't out any cash.
Telling your friends that your bank account was cleaned out for burner phones by a possible drug dealer? That makes it a little more unsettling, doesn't it? Nothing humorous about the dirty boogie man with crusty teeth and track marks on his arms being nestled right up in our bank account.
So where am I using my debit card that it's being stolen three times in less than a year? Same places you probably use your debit card. Grocery stores, discount stores, gas stations, online retailers. Nowhere weird, trust me.
I asked the banker what I can do to prevent this from happening in the future and his very upbeat and chipper response was: not much. As long as you're swiping your card, you're susceptible to theft. Skimmers on card readers at gas stations and ATMs can grab your number and PIN, data breaches at any retailer where you've previously used your card in person or online, etc. Makes you feel good inside, doesn't it? Spending your own money makes you vulnerable to someone else stealing your money. Fascinating.
What can I do? I'm tired of dealing with this so once it arrives, I'm going to avoid using my new debit card whenever possible. The less I use it, the less chance of it being stolen. From now on I'll be the annoying woman at the grocery store and at Target and Costco and Academy Sports writing checks. Yep. Checks. Sorry, not sorry, people behind me in line. It won't make me invincible, but it can't hurt.
So next time you're at HyVee and the person in the check out line ahead of you whips out their checkbook, remember this story and the super creepster buying an excessive amount of burner phones off of a suburban mom's checking account. Take a deep breath and swear quietly to yourself. It'll be over quicker than someone can dial their dealer. Promise.
PS: Our bank is amazing. The stolen money was returned to our account before the end of the business day. They went out of their way to accommodate me and make everything right. Top notch customer service and I'll be a customer for life.
Katrina Crites is a mother of one weird prepubescent kid, wife to a husband whom she adores except when he chews on ice. She has a love/hate relationship with running, adores winter and once thought overalls and Doc Martens were acceptable to wear in public. She lives in Olathe with her family of weirdos and knows if she didn't have the ice chewer, she'd be a crazy cat lady.