If you're not keeping a hairy eyeball on your financial accounts, you might want to start taking a closer look at things. This week has been a doozy for financial crimes. They've hit the headlines, they've hit close to home, and one actually did hit home.
I'll start off with big news from yesterday. A cyber-attack on an international array of banks lifted a reported $78 million from customer accounts. The story is still developing so the actual extent of the crime probably isn't known yet.
Meanwhile, one of my friends just had his bank account sapped by a guy who simply walked into a bank, filled out a withdrawal slip with the appropriate information, presented a false ID that was in my friend's name, and sashayed out with the cash. Yes, just like that. This is pretty worrisome stuff.
It's so worrisome that I have channeled my inner Travis McGee (hero of mystery novels). WWTD? What would Travis do?
He'd be eying the buxom blonde in the string bikini at the marina bar, that's what he'd be doing. She's downed three scotch and sodas. She just ordered a fourth. She seems worried about something, or maybe just lost in thought, as she meditates on the ice cubes in her glass, searching them for clues about where it all went so wrong. Maybe it was that time she took the Greyhound bus from Biloxi to Las Vegas. Vegas will get you every time, she tells herself; there's a smile on every face, and a lie behind every smile. Over her shoulder golden ripples from the setting sun shimmer on the water. A warm breeze is stirring. Her fresh drink arrives, and she lifts her eyes and happens to meet Travis' gaze. She smiles...
Hey! Travis! Do you mind? It's time to get your head in the game, sir, I've got a column to write. OK? Thank you.
Travis would think that the guy that did the deed at my friend's bank was a mere mule for the mastermind, since anyone as smart as the mastermind wouldn't expose himself like that. Travis would further induce that an arrangement like that was symptomatic of a professional syndicate, not just an ad hoc deal.
And now for my little caper. On Sunday I was trying to pay for gasoline with a credit card. The transaction wouldn't go through. Sure, I have other credit cards. I also have a wife. My wife has about 80 purses. She literally has purses within purses. She shuffles my credit cards between them using a sophisticated, randomly-based logic sequence that not even Einstein could solve on a good day. Nothing can trump Wife Purse Logic.
“Mahal, where is my green Amex card?”
“It's in my purse.”
“The Coach purse.”
“Which Coach purse? You've got, like, 80 of them.”
“Of course. So just look in the purse.”
“Agh. Never mind. Just tell me where the platinum Visa is, OK?”
“Sure. It's in the other purse.”
While I was trapped in the infinite loop of Purse Logic, my credit card company called on the cell phone. An automated voice declared that my credit card was canceled due to a fraud alert. End of message. Click.
Well, that explained the problem at the gas station. I finally got through to the card's security department. No, I did NOT order 200 big screen TVs and a pack of Gummy Bears for delivery to Bucharest. And if you're going to charge me for 37 roundtrip tickets from Murmansk to Guayaquil then at least give me the frequent flyer miles.
Fortunately, the same grouchy voice-bot that canceled my card flagged the bogus charges; nothing escapes that witch. So I'm OK. But here's something telling: The credit card company has no interest in finding a path to the bad guys. Apparently, nobody has the resources to solve this stuff, since there's so much of it going on, “24/7“ as they say, all over the world.
Jeez, enough already. Let's bring back the good old days, when a bank robber had to at least work for a living and risk getting plugged by the sheriff in the process. That was the American way.
Back then we had cops and robbers. But now we just have hackers and victims, plus the occasional automated voice to keep score. Click.
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.