the IT city, the I.T. Baby


Dealing with check fraud

Blank ChecksI haven’t been posting much the past week, there’s a reason and it’s check/banking fraud and the resultant tumbling of all my money and time-saving mechanisms one by one.

Long story short – someone stole a check of mine out of a locked mailbox, copied off the routing and account info, printed up their own checks with my information, and went to town draining $1852 in an hour or two from my checkings, which is tied to my savings in the event of an overdraft.

The check was probably stolen on Monday or Tuesday of last week, and Thursday July 2nd was when I discovered there was no money in my account. Here’s what followed.

Call up every number Regions bank has attempting to speak with a human. I can’t reach anyone with any option. All searches return the 800 numbers I’ve already called. The fraud line doesn’t work as it requires a PIN from me that I’ve never had.

Drive to the nearest Regions bank and spend roughly an hour and a half getting new checking account, filling out affidavits of fraud, and marking which bills are right and which are wrong. I have 7 EFT drafts coming out that day, so shutting the account down is a pain and a half.

Call the police to file a report, they’ll call me back. Call an ID theft place which tells me the extent of my ID theft protection is if someone starts doing anything or creditors start knocking at my door for the bad checks they’ll handle it. OK, no huge deal.

Two hours later the police call me, we start the report and upon discovering that the checks were cashed in two different locations they tell me they’ll need the addresses of both. It’s now after five and Regions is closed. I also didn’t know which check was cashed at which bank, and although there are numbers printed on the cashed checks, they don’t correspond to anything I can recognize.

Friday I get back in touch with the person at Regions and get which check was at what bank. I also now have a bit more of a brain and ask if they tied my new checking account number to my bank card as I forgot to ask the day before. They hadn’t. No biggie, she gets it taken care of.

Police call back, I get the reports filed and email the report numbers to the Regions contact I’ve been dealing with.

I get a note a little later that they need the actual reports, not the numbers. I call the police non-emergency line and ask if they can get them to me via email or some such. Nope, have to go to Central Records Division, which is closed as everyone’s taking Friday the 3rd as the 4th of July. It’s also closed the weekend.

The weekend I spend updating what auto-pay methods I can. Most of these were set up back in the stone age where I mailed in a cancelled check and have to be cancelled by an attendant. Which there are none because it’s the 4th of July weekend.

I make a list of 21 different auto draft accounts I have to deal with (insurances home, life, vehicle, mortgages, utilities, etc) and 4 auto-deposit accounts (Google, Amazon, Paypal, Venmo.)

The auto deposit accounts were easy. The insurance accounts were mostly easy except for the life insurance policy which required me to call in twice on Monday before I could update my information.  At the beginning of Monday I had 17 accounts left to deal with that couldn’t be done online.

Monday morning I drive downtown, park, and locate the Central Records division. I pay someone $2 or so to print out 15 pages that could have been emailed to me. I pay $2 in parking. I drive the report back to Regions where they make a copy of it.

My first big issue in updating things comes with Nationstar Mortgage. After a twenty minute hold and I get in touch with someone they find that the account just can’t be updated. Some more searching and another eight minutes of my life wasted we learn that the systems are down, nobody bothered to inform them, and to check back in an hour.

An hour later it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work until I talk to them again on Tuesday.

The next issue comes with the Nashville Electric Service which I need to have manually unenroll me in a system they called NEAT and enroll me in E-bill/eft. Problem with having an account from 2003 is sometimes there’s wonkiness going on. This takes until Wednesday and three phone calls and two browsers because their site doesn’t let you add someone with Chrome.

The gas company was pretty easy, just required a phone call that took about 15 minutes.

Metro Water had an issue, but I got everything set up after they did some magic. And then on Thursday I got a call from someone that they accidentally deleted all of my auto pay info because there had been a screw up. I went back in and typed out my 28 digits of routing and checking account numbers nine more times and that was taken care of.

Over the weekend someone pulled the court records of a man with the name of the one who was cashing my checks. Looks to have been involved with some other forgeries.

But yeah, last week federal offense for tampering with the mail, grand larceny (over $1000,) etc. 10 or so hours of my time to get things straightened out. I’m still out $1850 a week later waiting for things to happen. All of this caused by someone grabbing an $11 check.

That said, some words of advice coming from this hellish holiday:

  • have a checking account and an EFT account – this way if someone intercepts a check you’re not having to deal with the incompetence of several companies in dealing with early-month EFT changes
  • Call up your bank’s fraud department – see if you can actually get someone. My bank has a wall that without some information it’s impossible to get a human. We’re at the point where I’ll be dropping Regions if I can’t get some direct-dial numbers for if this ever happens again.
  • Have a list of the websites and contact info where your mortgages and auto drafts are at. If you’re ever hospitalized at least your family will know who to contact. It was a severe pain for me, I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was down for a month and 17 things bounced.
  • Do not write a check to anyone you don’t trust ever. While I realize this is impossible, check fraud is as easy as purchasing a batch of blank checks and using Microsoft Word to fill them out.

During this time I got asked many times if someone washed the writing off of my checks or how could the bank not recognize that that wasn’t my signature. Nope, all they did was copy the numbers, and they didn’t cash it at my branch where nobody would recognize my signature anyway.

Pack of blank checks they used: $20 after S&H

Current profit for five minutes of breaking into a mailbox and swiping mail: $1830

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.