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Mischief! Financial horrors at the hands of creeps

Thieves, fraudsters, con artists, scammers, phishers -- whatever you call them, they used a lot of dirty tricks this year to take other people's money.

Who took my mother's money?
My mother opened a money market account. No ATM card was issued to her at the time. She came to me with her bank statement and asked me what the withdrawals meant. I asked her what she was doing with her money. She said, "I'm not doing anything. I haven't withdrawn anything."

On her statement were 12 withdrawals, each in the amount of $800 totaling $9,600. Well, that shook me up enough to look back at her previous statement -- which showed the first withdrawal of $800, for a grand total of $10,400.

We went to the bank and spoke to the manager. They got their fraud department involved. To make a long story short, someone inside the bank had somehow attached my mother's money market account number to another person's ATM account and they took advantage. The money had been withdrawn from several different branches over a month's time. The tapes from the security cameras showed different people had withdrawn the money.

It took almost three months, but the bank finally returned the money, plus interest, to her account.

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E-mail scam story
About a week ago I got an e-mail stating that my credit card had been charged $263.54 for kiddy porn and to enter my account number to confirm the payment. I wouldn't have anything to do with that -- but I think others would be scared into entering their account number to see if they really were charged for something like that. I didn't investigate the site. I did check my accounts to make sure nothing like this had been charged to it.

And another...
My wife received this e-mail: "We have just charged your credit card for money laundry service in the amount of $234.65 (because you are either a child pornography webmaster or deal with dirty money, which requires us to laundry them and then send to your checking account).
If you feel this transaction was made by our mistake, please press 'No.'
If you confirm this transaction, please press 'Yes' and fill in the form below."
Then it asked her to fill in her credit card number and expiration date.

Rebate never sent
I purchased a computer from a reputable company through the Internet with a rebate offer of $100. I mailed the rebate request a month later. When the rebate did not arrive, I inquired and was told that it was not received, and was told to resubmit copies of the documents. I resubmitted the documents and was told that it was postmarked beyond the eligibility date.

Repeated attempts to get my rebate haven't worked. Each time I only get the same standard printed response and an unfulfilled promise of a telephone call, letter or postcard explaining the problem.

Debt counselors from below
I had been through several "debt counselors" who did more harm than good to my credit. One took $268 per month out of my account for 24 months. While they did take care of one creditor, they still needed to take care of two others. They signed me on for another year.

A month later, I discover that there wasn't a withdrawal from my account. I called their offices, only to find that they were in bankruptcy and in court for fraud! I lost $4,000 plus fees and money market interest from deposits into their account.

The hot machine -- ATM fraud
I was scammed and did not even know it.

In March I went to an ATM to withdraw $20. It said my account had exceeded its daily withdrawal limit. When I went to my bank, I was horrified to find out that someone had duplicated my ATM card and made deposits and withdrawals from my account as well as requested a direct deposit advance of $500.

I immediately canceled my check card and opened a new checking account. The bank was great at getting my money back, helping me open a new account and erasing all the fees.

As I was getting my new account information, the bank employee working with me let it spill that I was the tenth person she had dealt with on this exact same issue. She went on to tell me that there was a huge ATM/check card fraud problem there. She said I must have used a "hot" ATM -- more than likely a stand-alone machine in a store.

What happened was, when I swiped my card and entered my PIN number, the ATM flashed "processing," and then, "time exceeded" -- so I went through the process again and got my cash. By going through the process again, they got me. The first time I swiped, they got my PIN number; the second time I swiped, they got the information off my card.

I learned a valuable lesson -- only use the ATM at an official bank.

Check fraud
I have not been scammed, however I work for one of the largest banks on the East Coast. The other day a customer came in with an official bank check for about $14,000. He had sold a car over the Internet. He was instructed by the other party to deposit the check and wire back $7,000 to close the deal.

Fortunately, the teller who took care of this customer became suspicious and called our security and fraud unit. The check was deposited so that it could be tracked to the source, but we did not do the wire and saved our customer from being scammed by the other party. Please alert your readers to be on their toes because there are a lot of crooks out there just waiting to use the new technology to fatten their pockets.

Editor's note: Here's how this scam works. The scammer buys a product from you, sends you a check for more than the amount and asks you to send back the difference. You deposit the check and when you think it has cleared, you send the buyer the difference. In a few days, the con's check bounces and you are out all the cash you sent him. For more on online auction scams, click here.

-- Posted: Oct. 23, 2003
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See Also
MAIN: Financial fright: Scariest stories
Scariest scams of the year
Bankrate's scam roundup
Financial advice glossary
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