Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Criminals Work Hard On Labor Day Weekend

While many honest hardworking Americans were enjoying a long three-day holiday, it was the perfect time for criminals to start working. You may have stopped your mail/newspapers, set the timers on the lights in your home and had your car checked out before hitting the road for the last big weekend of summer, but there is probably one thing you forgot to check….. your bank accounts.

What is the crazy Wizard talking about? Why would we need to check our bank accounts before the holiday weekend? Got paid on Friday and have money to spend, what else do we need to know? The short answer – criminals like to work on long weekends when the banks are closed. See where this is going or do you still think the Wizard must have partied too much last weekend? If a criminal gains access to your banking information, they can spend lots of your hard-earned money over a holiday weekend while you are away and the banks are closed. The thieves probably didn’t obtain this information while you were on vacation or even the week before. They may have obtained the information a month or more before the holiday, just waiting until the next time the bank takes a long weekend holiday. Whether using your bankcard information or your checking account numbers, the thieves know that banks will be closed, and people are less likely to check their accounts during the holidays. Another plus for criminals is that many people are paid on Fridays, so it is likely that the targeted accounts contain more funds on a Friday. Then how did the thief obtain your information?

Bank card skimmers are popular for recording bankcard numbers and PINs. Have you visited the ATM or bought gas using your ATM card lately? Check out this video to learn more about skimmers. Check fraud is the other growing method of robbing hard-working Americans of their money. There are numerous ways criminals can obtain your checking account and bank routing number to create new checks.

It was check fraud and unauthorized electronic debits that consumed the first 24 hours of the Wizard’s Labor Day Weekend. The Wizard reviews bank accounts online at least once a week. Last week the Wizard checked late Thursday night to verify a deposit had been made. All was well. The Wizard checked again for another deposit a little after 9 pm on Friday night and was shocked to find a lower than expected balance. Upon close inspection, the Wizard discovered that two very large purchases had been made at WalMart. Who spends over $1400 at WalMart? Not the Wizard! Of course, it was holiday weekend and the customer service department at the bank was closed for the day. How much more money was this thief going to take before the account could be closed? After talking to a helpful bank employee working late in another department, we started the ball rolling. If theft wasn’t bad enough, now the Wizard and the bank manager had to expend time canceling old accounts and setting up new ones. Not only is money being taken, which is a felony, but these crimes utilize a lot investigatory hours by fraud investigators from banks and the local law enforcement officers.

Next on the list was filing a report with the police department. These criminals almost always leave a paper trail, so the police detectives are on the case now. Fortunately, a branch of the bank was open on Saturday morning, and we were able to shut the accounts down, but not before “he” cashed two more checks. I say “he” because we were able to view the canceled checks. The checks contained the name, address and driver’s license number of a person who is NOT the Wizard, but the account and bank routing number belonged to the Wizard’s checking account. The interesting thing was that the check was imprinted with the name of a bank, but the bank shown not where the Wizard banks. Now, we have check fraud and unauthorized ACH debit cases open for the bank’s investigators to dig into. To further complicate matters, these crimes are considered felonies. The good news is the thief might do a little time. The bad news is the person will be less likely to find a job to become a productive citizen with a felony record, even if he really wanted give up his life of crime. Would your company hire someone with a felony record involving theft of funds? If you aren’t sure, customs brokers should check 19 CFR 111.53(e) and importers should review some of their C-TPAT guidelines. So, what will the criminal do to earn a living once convicted of a felony involving theft of funds?

The Wizard hopes you’ve enjoyed the long weekend. Just remember, check your accounts before and after a three-day weekend. Even though you are not working and banks aren’t open, the criminals are working hard to separate you from your hard-earned money.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent suggestion. I am sorry for your troubles but your promptness may have saved you even more losses. And your sharing may save your readers a similar probelm as well.