Batman has his batarang, Dirty Harry his .44 magnum and Brooklynite Dina Wohlhendler has her … mobile banking text alerts?
In what might be the first case of mobile-banking vigilantism, Wohlhendler was shopping in Manhattan when she noticed her wallet was missing from her purse. Then, text alerts from her bank started hitting her phone, letting her know that someone was racking up sizable purchases at nearby retailers on her debit card.
Using the bank notifications and a little bit of intuition, she tracked the alleged thief to a Best Buy in midtown. From Sandy Eller at Vos Iz Neias:
Going back out onto 5th Avenue, Mrs. Wohlhendler began walking uptown hoping to somehow spot the thief on her own, when she noticed a Best Buy located one block to the north. Acting on instinct, she entered the store where she observed a woman, holding an Urban Outfitters bag, purchasing a cellphone. Coming closer to the shopper, she noticed the name on the credit card being offered to the cashier was none other than her own.
"I started yelling at her," said Mrs. Wohlhendler. "At first she denied that the card was mine, but then she started yelling at me. She started running away towards the back of the store, but I ran after her, calling for security. She started throwing the merchandise from Urban Outfitters at me, then some cash, then my wallet, screaming 'Here is your stuff back, it is just a mix-up.'"
Best Buy security detained the woman and insisted that the pair wait for police to clarify the matter.
A lot of people worry about the security of mobile banking, but this incident makes a strong case for mobile banking as a security-enhancing feature. While you probably won't end up using it to dramatically foil a thief, mobile banking can help you keep tabs on your account so you can report suspicious activity to your bank quickly.
That's the key, because consumer protection laws shift more liability to the customer as time goes on. The more time that elapses between when the crime occurs and when you report it, the more you'll likely end up having to pay.
What do you think? Would you have tried to track down and confront the thief? Can mobile banking help stop crime?
Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.
(Hat tip to the Consumerist.)