October 07, 2008

Automated Theft Machine

Last week while enjoying a wonderful layover in the Phoenix airport, I was doing some banking online and noticed two strange debit card transactions on my account that had taken place the day before. Knowing that I had been in Phoenix that entire day and that my debit card had never left my side, I immediately called the bank and was transferred to the fraud department. After a few minutes I learned that the two transactions took place at an ATM machine in Illinois and that someone had used my card and PIN! I politely informed the fraud rep that as much as I would like the power to be in two places at once, my DeLorean DMC-12 was still in the shop because the nuclear reactor on the flux-capacitor was out of plutonium. I asked how in the world someone could use my debit card in Illinois since my card was in my wallet in Arizona, not to mention how they knew my PIN. In my mind, I began doubting myself. Had my flight to Phoenix a few days earlier gone on to Illinois and had the man sitting next to me somehow hypnotized me into giving him my account information and creating him a duplicate card? Or had I secretly traveled to Illinois myself during the 10 minute breaks we had during our work meeting the day before? Or had I sleep-flown to Illinois during the night, completed the two transactions and then returned without even knowing it? I had been extra tired the next morning.

The fraud rep explained that some hackers lately have been able to infiltrate gas pumps or other ATM type machines where you use a card but she had no idea how someone would get my PIN. They promised to refund my account temporarily and open an investigation. I called Jeni to tell her and she informed me that she had been to our actual bank branch that same day and there had been about 16 individuals complaining of the same thing and more coming into the branch as she was there. It turns out that someone had broken into the ATM machine at our branch, obtained our debit card number and PIN, duplicated our numbers onto new, fake cards, traveled to Illinois (and New York) and withdrew money from all of our accounts. How the perpetrator did this, I have no idea. I don’t even know if they’ve found the person yet. Suffice it to say, I'm done using ATM's. I think I’ll be using live tellers for a while.