My Nightmare Experience with Bank Fraud

by - March 23, 2017

Over the past nearly eight years that I've worked in news, not a week goes by that we don't get a call, email, or even a station visit related to some type of scam or fraud. The response is always the same - notify the police, don't give them any money, and so on and so forth. We've done countless stories on scams and fraud, and I would consider myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to avoiding becoming a victim, but I did, and it's changed my perspective.

In late January, I received an email from my bank alerting me to suspicious activity on my debit card and that they had frozen that card as a precaution. It was a weekend, so I quickly logged into the Regions app on my phone to see what was going on. I discovered charges that had been made in Canada at a gas station and the Walmart across the street along with international fees and overdraft fees. So I called the bank to dispute the claims.

This is where the nightmare began.

First, I was told there was nothing Regions could do until the fraudulent charges went through. Then, there would be an investigation that could take days, weeks, or even months to complete. I was then offered a credit card and a short-term loan.

This is the point where my temper got the better of me. I was already angry that Regions had allowed three international charges on my debit card before freezing the account. Being told that the charges had to go through before I could dispute them didn't help. But I knew the girl on the other end of the line was just doing her job ... until she offered me the loan. The call ended not long after that. And, no, I didn't appreciate the "I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you" comment.

The next step was to stop my paycheck from being direct deposited into that account. So my check was mailed to me. I got it four days after I usually do and opened an account at a new bank, meaning no debit card or checks for another couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I'm checking the Regions account every couple of hours to see if more fraudulent charges and fees show up and keeping tabs on the pending ones. As soon as they posted, three days after the email, I called customer service again. This experience was much more pleasant but still didn't yield any results. In fact, I still have not received a replacement debit card or the paperwork I was supposed to fill out. The only useful information I got out of that call was that the thieves had probably cloned my card through a gas pump skimmer.

Then, more bad luck. I was expecting my paycheck to continue to come in the mail until I set up a new direct deposit, but my next paycheck was auto-dumped into the affected Regions account. Luckily, all of the fraudulent charges and fees had been refunded by this point so I didn't lose a chunk of my check, but I had to write a check to transfer the money into my new account. They, of course, put a hold on it because it was a personal check.

So there I was with money sitting in an account but no way to use it to pay my bills, and even though I notified all of the affected accounts that the payments would be late, all those overdue payments took a bite out of my credit score. Thankfully that was just temporary, but here we are nearly two months later and I'm just now getting my financial life back.

The only thing I haven't done yet is close out the Regions account completely, but it won't be long before I do. I know they couldn't stop my card from being skimmed, but I feel like the bank I'm with now will perk up a little faster if my "card" is used in a completely different country.

Does part of me hope that someone from Regions reads this? Yes. Because customer service matters.

But even if they don't, this experience will not have been in vain. Because now I can relate to those people who call my newsroom because they've been targeted by a scam or someone used their bank information to put them in debt and ruin their credit. And although I'll still tell them to report it to the police, I hope I come across a little more understanding now than I'm sure I have in the past. Because I now know first-hand that shit sucks.

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