This morning, I received a recorded fraud alert call from my bank--they detected suspicious activity on my ATM card. Immediately thinking back, I knew I'd used the card at the bank's ATM just the afternoon before, but I couldn't recall when I'd used it prior to that time. A restaurant? The grocery store?
I logged into my account online and sure enough, there were a handful of charges, all relatively small, from McDonalds, a market, a gas station, and a drug store located in three small towns within a two hour drive from my home.
As I was asked to do in the recorded alert, I contacted the bank's fraud department, and identified the fraudulent charges. My ATM card was then cancelled, and I won't be held responsible for any of the charges, but I DO have to wait about a week to receive my new card.
What really amazes me is how the bank was able to identify those particular charges as suspicious. The amounts were small and the towns were close enough to my home that it wouldn't be unreasonable to think I might be making the purchases myself. It's probably best we don't know how banks catch this kind of thing so quickly, but I'm very grateful they do.
I've read a lot of warnings about using an ATM card at gas pumps, but sometimes it's the only reasonable option. When my friends and I were in Gardnerville, Nevada, last Saturday, we stopped for gas before we headed home, and I used my card there at the pump. I had a weird experience too: It asked me to authorize a 35 cent surcharge for using a card by pressing the "yes" button. I didn't immediately see the "yes" button and pushed "enter" instead. It asked me again to push the "yes" button to authorize the transaction fee, and when I finally located the right button, it declined my card. I went into the mini-mart to see if I could pay in there using a credit card, and I learned they didn't take credit cards, but the attendant ran my ATM card and it worked fine. In hindsight, I'm suspicious now about the machine at the pump. But it might not have been that. It could have been any restaurant I've been to recently. Who knows? It's hard to say.
On my way home from work, I stopped at the grocery store to purchase a few things we needed for the weekend. At the register, I punched my phone number into the electronic payment device mounted on the counter in order to get the store's club card discount, but then what was I supposed to do if I was going to write a check instead of swipe my ATM card? "I want to write a check," I told the cashier, "How do I do that?" "You just write a check," she replied. Of course, I felt kind of dumb! Isn't it funny how quickly our habits change with new technology?
The weekend is here, and I guess I should just hang around the house and sew since I don't have access to my money. Not having an ATM card for a few days might not be such a bad thing after all!