So on Tuesday night as we sat peacefully in our TV room -- rather late -- relaxing, TG and I had what you might call a surprise.
Said surprise came in the form of an email received by my TG.
An email from the Phoenix Lounge, thanking TG for the generous gratuity on his order, and asking how he would rate the named drinking establishment.
My first clue that something was amiss was when TG, who had been up to that time characteristically quiet, absorbed in surfing the Web on his iPad, blurted:
Somebody's spending my money!!!
I knew it wasn't me; I had not indulged in shopping that day. Not even the online kind.
And yet, one of our three accounts -- don't read anything into that; it's merely an organizational tool, not denoting wealth -- was being drained.
As in, our funds were being accessed as we sat in our TV room.
In fact, over the previous several hours, our money had been used to:
Fill a car with fuel;
Flll a few bellies with Blimpie sandwiches;
Scrape hair from a dog;
Stock up on supplies from a liquor store; and
Enjoy a late happy hour at a distinctly dive-like dram shop.
TG reached for his wallet and immediately realized the subject credit/debit card had NOT been stolen.
Within the next ten minutes, between the two of us we placed three calls: to the Columbia Police Department, to Wells Fargo, and to the Phoenix Lounge.
The lady who answered at the police department advised me that thieves can obtain your numbers in any number of ways and place your funds on any one of many different kinds of credit cards, including the pre-paid variety.
The lady at Wells Fargo cancelled TG's credit/debit card number, issued him a case reference number, and assured him we would not be responsible for the fraudulent charges.
The lady at the Phoenix Lounge told TG she knew -- based on the amount of the charges showing up on TG's Wells Fargo Activity Summary -- exactly who had been spending his money.
Because it had happened only moments before he called. 'Merica.
She described the perpetrators thusly -- and don't get mad at me, because these were her exact words:
It was two big fat black women! They just now left!
Again: that was a direct quote as relayed to me by TG.
Later in a second convo with Phoenix Lounge lady manager, TG learned that she'd sent a bouncer outside to detain the two women, but they were:
... speeding away in a white car!
So anyway the next night, as in Wednesday -- again, rather late -- a police officer came to our house and took a full report and encouraged us to do some investigating on our own. Provided we were willing.
Like, knock your lights out! Just don't break the law. As in:
Remember, we can't use fruit from the poisonous tree.
Oh yeah! I've heard that on a few po-po procedural programs.
And standing in my own front room, I was amazed that the police were asking me -- it was only me; right? -- to aid in their investigation!
Turns out the reason for that was, although the criminals had stolen a lot of money from our checking account, they had not stolen enough for it to be classified a felony.
Therefore police resources may be spread a trifle too thin to enable them to pursue our case with anything resembling zeal.
But he said if I/we found anything out, to inform them immediately.
So on Thursday -- yes, yesterday -- yours truly went sleuthing.
I couldn't locate my deerstalker and anyway it's still pretty hot here, but, armed with addresses and telephone numbers and in fairly high dudgeon, I was prepared to right wrongs and re-right rights.
First stop: S-Mart #119, where we unwittingly paid to fill 'er up. I was hoping for some video surveillance revealing a license plate.
They were nice enough but we are still waiting to hear back from them.
Next stop: Animal World. That's where the brazen thieves took their dog to be groomed.
The ladies in that small shop remembered a large black lady who they'd never seen before, accompanied by a child, bringing in a dog. They agreed that:
She was the last customer of the day!
Ah. It is exhilarating to establish a timeline.
With the date, time of day, description, the exact dollar amount of the transaction, and the last four numbers of TG's card, it shouldn't have been any problem for the ladies to find a contact number for the dog owner slash credit card fraud person.
But they claimed they don't keep those records on the premises, but rather at the proprietor's place of residence.
And we are still waiting to hear back from them.
Next I swung by Blimpie Store #11069 and spoke with the franchise owner, a very nice gentleman.
He later called TG and said not only does he have video of the perpetrators, based on the description, time of day, and exact transaction amount ($17.78), but that one of his employees says she remembers and could identify them.
For what that's worth.
Then on to the Phoenix Lounge, a nasty sort of place I did not want to enter but which, once I did, made me so glad I never go to places like that. What a sad life have those who frequent bars.
And where I learned nothing I didn't already know.
I declined to visit the Cricket Plaza Liqueur and Party Shop, as it's farther away and I figure TG can do that part.
So there you have it my friends! Identity theft: It can happen to you.
On my travels I learned:
That criminals may be taking phone-video of your card as they stand behind you in line, pretending to check emails, so keep your thumb over some of the numbers; that bad guys go online and buy devices that allow them to steal your numbers through your purse or wallet, so get a special little scan-proof pocket vault to keep your cards in; that ne'er-do-wells can (and often do) copy down your numbers in restaurants and convenience stores; that you can protect yourself by subscribing to LifeLock or a similar service.
All of which I already knew, intuitively if not from actual experience.
So that is all for now except to say, if you've read this far and are planning a comment in which you lecture me about where we went wrong, how not to let this happen, and what you know to do so that it can never in a million years possibly happen to you, please lie down until the impulse goes away.
Because I don't mean to be testy or any more curmudgeonly than is my normal wont, but unsolicited advice is simply criticism, and I haven't told this story in order to solicit advice.
It was just to make you smile. If it didn't, a thousand apologies and:
Hugs, kisses, and best wishes for a:
Happy Friday ~ Happy Weekend