I looked at the screen and felt the blood drain from my face and a ball of stress start to build in my stomach. What was that check for $795 that had just posted to my checking account? I knew I hadn’t written a check for that amount recently. I pulled up the check image and felt even more worried: I didn’t recognize the payee or the memo and although the signature looked like mine, there were obvious differences and the number 7 in the amount box was written in a style I’ve never used. What was going on?
I called my husband and left him a message saying that I thought we had a problem with our checking account and then I called my bank’s Customer Service number. This was not a time for wading through many levels of automated menus – someone could be out there with my checkbook merrily writing checks against my bank account! I hung up and called my branch who instructed me to come into the branch as soon as possible so they could set the fraud process into motion.
Driving home I was extremely worried. I knew I’d last used the checkbook in our house and that I’d left it in the house. This raised the very nasty possibility that someone had broken into our home and stolen the checkbook. But, I had a pleasant surprise when I got home, the checkbook was still there and the duplicate of the last check I’d written clearly showed my $39 payment for a parking ticket. Bugger. Now I’d have to pay the parking ticket again too.
Earlier in the week, I’d been rushing to work in the morning so I’d left the parking ticket payment in my mailbox with the handy-dandy flag raised to indicate to the mail carrier that there was a letter to be picked up. Well, it had been picked up alright, but not by the mail carrier.
I spent the next couple of hours at the bank dealing with the required paperwork to submit a fraud claim, freeze my checking account and open a new account. Thankfully, since I had noticed the transaction so quickly, the check had not fully cleared and I’ll get my money back within 48 hours. According to the bank branch staff, this type of fraud claim can take up to 30 days to be processed.
So why am I writing about this on my supposedly-travel blog? Well, this whole experience made me realize how important it is to manage mail delivery when you’re away from your home. If you’re only going to be away for a weekend or even a few days mid-week, it’s easy to think that a mail hold is too much hassle. It’s not. It’s a worthwhile security precaution. You can now start and stop mail holds on the USPS website, it couldn’t be simpler.
Normal, travel-related programming will resume promptly…