Robbed

That’s how it feels and technically I guess I have been. I logged into my bank account Saturday and found my account had been emptied by a cheque issued the previous day. A cheque that I’d never written, a cheque that I’d never issued and a cheque that was still blank within my cheque book. I could feel the blood drain away from my face, my stomach emptying and then my hands shaking. This was a LOT of money (well for me anyway) and it was gone.

I phoned my bank and found out two things. Branches don’t open on Saturday and the fraudulent claims department doesn’t work weekends. If your going to defraud a bank do it on a Friday. Wait until Monday…and don’t worry was the advice over the phone!

So Monday came and I got on the phone again. The cheque was processed at the Byres road branch and they definitely had one of my cheques so it was of to the branch to get to the bottom of where my money had gone. I turned up, said my piece, showed them my cheque book with supposedly issued cheque still in the book and they went to investigate. 20 mins later they came back with ‘my’ cheque.

The cheque had my account number and sort code and also my branch details. It also had my name but this was slightly different than my actual account name. It also wasn’t my signature and also was signed with my middle initial and surname, something I never do. Worse was the cheque was faded compared to the originals in my book and also you could see old ink underneath the bank branch details. It was clearly a counterfeit cheque.

Thankfully the branch seem to be accepting of this too. They’ve closed my account, set-up a new one and been very helpful with sorting out access to money over the coming days and moving all the direct debits. But then they should be, no? They are the ones that have been defrauded, not me. Yet it’s me that doesn’t have my money refunded – that has to wait for the fraud investigation team which could take a few weeks. While this morning I felt OK with this as the day has moved on it has irritated me more and more. I’m also getting advice from some that I should involve the police rather than let the bank carry out an internal investigation but I’m not sure what if anything this would achieve apart from wasting their valuable time. I guess I would look at this option as a last resort if the bank started getting difficult.

I’m also feeling…vulnerable. How did someone get my details? Has there been mail intercepted? Is my internet access compromised? Has someone used an old cheque that I’ve issued to help mock up the counterfeit? It happened in Glasgow – could it be someone I know? How did they know how much to write the cheque for – coincidence or someone within the bank (somewhere) providing information? Is it someone I’ve used the account card recently? Paranoia but I really feel compromised by this. I’m usually very careful, shredding all mail with name’s and also old bank details. My internet security I thought was always pretty good although I don’t think anyone can be 100% secure or sure that they aren’t compromised in some way.

I also feel that there were suspicious eye’s at the bank today and that’s why the fraud team will investigate and may take some time. Again it could be in my head but that’s how I feel and it will be difficult to shake this.

So, lessons learned? Be vigilant. Cheque your accounts regularly and make sure you can account for every transaction. If you use internet banking then make sure your machine is clear of spyware and I would also suggest using a strong password that you change regularly, even once a month to reduce the risk of it being compromised. I would also advise against accessing your account at work as you never know what your system administrator is tracking. Get a shredder and use it! If in a restaurant the waiter wants to take your card away ask him to bring the machine to you and if that isn’t possible insist that you go with the card – cloning of cards is on the increase.

Finally, and probably applies to me most. Never get arrogant about protecting your identity or accounts. I always thought I did well in protecting these things (and that why I’m writing all this on a public blog – doh!) but today has been a real wake up call. Fraud happens and there’s no telling who will be next.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve always had a niggling suspicion that my interenet security might not be as great as I think it is.
    Thanks for blogging this – someone else might have kept quiet, but knowing that this kind of fraud can happen so close to home is a real wake up call to be more vigilant.
    Hope it gets sorted out soon.

  2. That is a rather frightening story.
    Personally, I would involve the police in an attempt to stop them.

    Normally I could rationalise that this kind of thing happens, but for them to know the cheque number and how much was in the account, it sounds like an inside job or e-crime.

    By the way, do you employ your own spyware to know it is me each time I visit iand.net?

  3. Sorry to hear you have been the victim of crime, it sucks. I had a credit card cloned last year, and it eventually turned out OK for me, and I got the cash back for the fraudulent purchases. But I had to answer some awkward questions “So you couldn’t have just left your card with a friend, etc”

    I would advise that you do talk to the police. Telephone a local station and talk to someone knowledgeable, explain what happened and see what they advise. If this was something someone who works for the bank did, then the bank might not want an investigation because they don’t want the bad publicity it might generate. At the very least the fraud department should be made aware of it. I doubt you were the only victim.

    Once you have your money back if you are in any way unsatisfied with how they treated you (sounds like you are), then you should switch bank.

  4. Flip me Ivor (see what I did there), what a story. Definitely tell the police you don’t know where this could end. How was the cheque presented? In person for cash or what? Surely there would be video of it being presented if it was made out to cash.

    I’m away to check my mattress *shudder*

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