My Young By Name column for the May issue of the Tetbury Advertiser
A phone call purportedly from the fraud department of my bank is not the ideal start to my Saturday, waking me from a much-needed lie-in.
Yet I’m alert enough to remember early morning raids are a classic means of targeting people at their weakest. Could this woman asking for my personal details be a fraudster herself, trying to catch me off guard? I glance at the phone screen: “Number withheld”. Suspicious, I hang up, haul myself out of bed, and call my bank’s fraud helpline to check.
Turns out she was genuine. A flurry of failed debit card transactions in the last twenty-four hours has alerted the bank to potential theft of my details. In addition, my latest online statement reveals a series of successful transactions that are not mine: cinema bookings, fast food bills, and reservations at budget hotels.
My emotions are mixed. I’m cross that someone has stolen my card details. (The card itself is still safe in my purse). I’m grateful to the bank for spotting the problem before it escalated out of control: I’m only £207 down so far, which will be restored to my account by the end of Monday.
But I’m also disappointed at the downmarket nature of the fraud: KFC, a trip to the flicks, cheap rooms. My criminal lacks style. Has she no ambition?
Years ago, my husband had a similar experience. By the time he noticed his credit card was missing, it had been used for a string of identical small purchases at Asda. We pictured the thief going in to the store and buying a case of cheap lager, finding he’d got away with it, then repeating the process until he was too drunk to navigate the aisles.
In a way, I’d be happier if my thief had been more lavish, splashing out on a slap-up meal at the Ritz and tickets for the Orient Express, diamonds glinting as she keyed in my pin number. My chicken-eating cinema-goer just makes me sad. If that’s the height of her aspirations, she’s probably hard up and leading a dull and difficult life.
But whatever her backstory, she is still a thief with no regard for MY backstory. For all she knew, she might have left me unable to pay rent or mortgage or buy food for my family, while she treated herself with my money to non-essentials.
Then I realise that the people whose backstories I should be thinking of are the bank’s fraud department. Slogging through their daily case-load, its clerks get little thanks from people like me whose immediate (albeit natural) response to their bad news is shock and anger rather than gratitude and good manners.
So I’ll close by thanking these small-scale superheroes who daily save the world from financial disaster, one stolen bank card at a time.
Bank clerks, I owe you.