Last week, my debit card was declined when I tried to use it to buy lunch. Fortunately, the person accompanying me owned me a lunch anyway. The card worked for cash advances and any purchase that involved the PIN, so I didn't think much of it until it was declined again.
I called my credit union and learned that there had been a couple of suspicious charges. They didn't sound particularly familiar, but they were for small amounts and I was so fixated on the convenience of the card that I asked to have my account unblocked.
I learned just how stupid an idea that was on Saturday morning. I doing my morning Bloglines surfing when I received a call from Visa. There had been two debits the previous evening: $28 at a Mexican restaurant (legitimate - that's where we had dinner) and $1,000 at Wal-mart. Uh oh.
I make a special point of avoiding Wal-mart, which left no question that someone was fraudulently using my debit card number.
All weekend long, I was forced to get by on old school purchasing methods: cash and checks. I don't have a credit card anymore and I hadn't realized how dependent I had become on the debit card.
The thing that really gets me is that I resisted getting a debit card for a ridiculously long time. I'd had an ATM card in the late '80s, but had then foregone all bank cards until just a couple of years ago.
It didn't take long before I was using the card for everything and never carrying cash. Lunch here, coffee there, a book, some groceries and a tank of gas - all on the debit card. La, la, la.
The credit union says I'll need to wait for the fraudulent charge to hit (that is, wipe out) my checking account, then come in and fill out a dispute form. I guess there's no police report or anything like that involved, although I can't really understand why not. I want someone to track down the thief! Does this kind of crime really go unpunished?
In the meantime, the credit union has canceled my debit card and will be issuing me a new one with a different number.
When I get the new card, I'm not sure how to handle it. Obviously, the more I use it, the more chances there are the someone might copy the number. I hate to carry cash, but at least if someone steals your cash, they're only getting the amount you have on your person rather than the entire contents of your checking account.
What a pain...