It's Like Stealing Acorns from a Blind Pig

You know those funny commercials where a little lady is sitting in a rocking chair and she starts to speak and it sounds like she is a 250 pound thug with tattoos and a criminal record?

Identity theft.

Turns out it's not funny.

And it is for real. 

For a couple of days now, we've been cleaning up the messy remains of a desperate thief who swiped our Debit card number (that can also be used as a credit card) and paid their very large, overdue utility bill, plus some.

And although that was very responsible of them (I would have died if they'd run off to DisneyWorld with it), they used our money to do it.

I did a little research and discovered that it was our own local electric company. Which means that someone in our town stole from us.

It makes me feel sick and violated.

It also makes me pity the person driven to steal just to keep their lights turned on.

We have no idea how this happened. My purse wasn't stolen, neither was my hubby's wallet. We are careful and keep our financial info private.

But it did. Happen.

I'm thankful our bank discovered it quickly. They alerted us and we took immediate action to shut down the account and they returned the nearly $500 we didn't authorize. They told us this was happening more and more frequently.

These kind of thieves are good at what they do. Stealing our money was easy for them, just like stealing acorns from a blind pit. We are unsuspecting, trusting and we use our debit cards often.

Well. This blind pig's hindsight is 20/20. 

Here's what we learned  to protect ourselves from it happening again:
  • Shred all papers/documents that go into our trash
  • File a police report (We hated to do this, but how do we stop it if we don't call it a crime?)
  • Change our pin numbers
  • Check our credit report periodically
  • Monitor ALL charges on our account (this is how we clued in on exactly what was stolen)
  • Stop carrying our Social Security cards
  • No longer giving out personal information over the phone
  • Sign up for Life Lock- Identity Theft Protection
  • Do not let our credit cards out of sight (Have you heard of skimmers?) Thieves can attach these to RedBox Movie Rentals!
  • Remove our names from Marketers lists 
This pig has seen the light.

Oink. Oink

Oh. And it turns out I don't look so great as a 250 pound man with tattoos. 


Anonymous said...

I used to work for a credit card processing company. Some companies do not truncate the card number. Many restaurants have the full card number on the merchant receipt. Anyone can see it when you leave. This happened to my friends. Also when the waiter takes your card they can write the name, card number, and secure pin on the back. This would allow them to purchase things over the internet and also in your case pay bills. But the good news is that you debit card is under the same laws as your credit card. You did right.


Amy said...

Kristen-That happened to us just a couple weeks ago. It was awful. My bank told me that not only had the charges been taken OUT of our account, but another $1500 were pending...and we were supposed to get paid the next day...via direct deposit!

Thankfully, my husband's employer was gracious so that we got paid despite having shut down the account.

I pray for peace for you guys. Ours was "stolen" (we still had the cards like you) from someone in another country. It still feels like a violation, though I can imagine it would be much worse if it had been in our own back yard.


Anonymous said...

In our area they have attached skimmers to ATM machines that sit in the DRIVE THRU OF A BANK! Thanks to the news I know what they look like and am always on the look out.

And as the wife of a police officer . . . . call the police!!

southerninspiration said...

So why did you remove your name from the do not call lists??

I am so sorry to hear of this. I dread if it happens to me. I can see how you'd feel violated.


southerninspiration said...

Oh, never mind, I read that last comment wrongly.......the blue words do not call list are how to remove your name.....duh, I guess it's late!


Mandi said...

We've also had this happen twice, and the 2nd time we're almost positive it was when my hubby went to lunch with coworkers and the waiter or waitress kept the # to pay his/her cell phone bill. People have got guts. Thanks for the reminder to keep an eye out.

Wifeof1Momof4 said...

What a violation! I did have my purse stolen once and it was PAIN!!

I learned a lesson through it all though. I had gotten so comfortable.

Makes you want to go back to cash/checks for everything .. even though that is no guarantee. At least w/ the debit/credit cards, the charges can be reimbursed and accounts revamped.

Thanks for ALL the tips. Gotta love LifeLock.

Muthering Heights said...

Jordan and I encountered some fraudulent charges on our card in the past, and fortunately, they were all erased as well. It's awful to feel so violated!!

I'm glad it all worked out for you!

staskym said...

Hubby travels quite a bit so his company takes care of all our cards on some type of insurance. anyway he was in San Antonio a while back on business and the Marriott there called to let us know that they had employee problems and that we might want to cancel our cards or keep a close eye on them, well the card company canceled the card on there own which surprised me. also our oldest goes to UTSA and his card was also changed out, he had paid at the parking garage when he went to see his dad. and that was a bank card, not a credit card.again the bank did it on their own, so they are aware of the problems out there and will help as much as they can it seems like.

Jessica said...

My husband had his identity stole last year. Only it wasn't credit card related. Someone had gotten a hold of his ss# and DOB and got a job in his name. Then they didn't pay taxes on their wages. It was pretty shocking to find out my "husband" owed the IRS money!

Mrs. Querido said...

We had the same thing happen to us...only the thief stole our bank account number from our checks. We had mailed out utility bills and somehow someone in the complex got into the out-going mailbox and stole our information.

They used it to pay their electricity bill and $200 cable bill.

I was shocked. After that, we used post office outgoing mail boxes. Not the ones in our complex.

Clean up was a pain. The electricity and cable companies didn't do anything. They were happy to get their money even if I didn't authorize it. Our bank reimbursed us for all funds lost. We had to change our checking account and close down the old one. Which is a major pain in the patootie if you are the type of person who has your account number memorized.

Sorry it happened to you.

Thanks for the heads up on skimmers...had no idea.

Hope your clean up goes fast and easy :)

Leanne said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you. My card number has been stolen twice now, once locally (traced back to a restaurant) and once in Amsterdam. That guy went to his own private disneyworld.

Pam said...

Wow. I'm so sorry to hear that this happenend to you. I've never heard of skimmers before and we use RedBox as our choice of movie rentals. Do you think you could elaborate a little on what they are? Hope this is resolved quickly for you.

Amy Ellen said...

Oh, thanks for this wake up call! I always figure it won't happen to me, but that is so naive... even though I take precautions, I need to be more aware. Thank you!

Amy said...

this happened to my husband. It was when we bought our house and we think the morgate company did not shred papers. But anothr tip we learned is to always use the option to use the card as credit instead of debit becasue then you do not have to enter your pin and have your number stored etc.

The Real Me! said...

You know what else works? Good ol' fashion cash! Yup, we still use it. I don't own a debit card and I have only used our credit card twice at a store. It's a little harder to plan ahead for purchases but at least it will keep you from buying stuff you don't need. LOL.
I'm so sorry that happened to you. It is a scary thing.

Amanda said...

When we were still living in Washington this happened to me too. To make matters worse though our bank didn't fill me in on what they thought were fraudulent charges (only some of them were!) and they put a stop on my debit/credit card without telling me!!

My husband was out to sea I was 7 months pregnant and didn't have a dollar to my name! I didn't realize what happened until I went grocery shopping and my card was denied. I also couldn't use my checkbook because I didn't have a license for the state of Washington only for my home state of Connecticut. It took three weeks and multiple trips to the bank to pull out cash before everything was worked out and I had a new card in my hands.

It is such a hassle but I do I have to say 'better safe than sorry' when it comes to this stuff. The total of $50 that were not my charges were returned but it still was a bit of an inconvenience!

Jodi said...

I'm so sorry that happened to you. It happened to us on our cross-country move a few years ago. It was a nightmare. They stole our debit card info to charge tons of stuff online, I'm so lucky I found it in time before it was all taken out and before the movers needed to charge our card for their services. Thanks for bringing attention to this. It can happen to anyone.

Bridget said...

Oh, no! That is terrible! I'm glad your bank caught it early!

M & J were at Redbox a few weeks ago and asked the guy about the "bumpers" they've put on the credit card swiper. He said it was to prevent those skimmers, but they get a lot of calls complaining about the bumps. I hope more companies start doing that.

Nicole said...

AAAHHH!!! This is such scary stuff!!! You guys are smart and were right on top of it! Are you truly signing up for Life Lock? If so, I am curious of your thoughts/opinions. Hubs and I were tempted after they were featured on Celebrity Apprentice (I know, I know). Thanks!

Lauren said...

I'm just wondering about your comment about taking your number OFF the Do Not Call registry. Why?

Stephanie said...

I love the fact that even while seeking justice (filing a police report) you look on this sad person with pity. That is what we as believers are called to do. Hate the sin...not the sinner.

It makes me wonder if it would be better to carry cash...but then I got my purse snatched right out of my hand a few years ago and so...what is the better way???

We also had to start taking our outgoing mail(bills) to the post office to mail. People were stealing mail right out of mail boxes in our neck of the woods. Sigh... it makes me think there is no good way. So sad.

KK said...

Thanks for sharing this information but I am so sorry you had to 'live' through an ordeal like this. If only some of the ones doing these type of things would stop and realize there is someone who would willingly help them if they were sincere & open with their needs.
Thankful your family is OK after dealing with this.
Praying for you and yours,
Matthew 21:22

Anonymous said...

The link to the Do Not Call Registry is broken.

We've had someone still our credit card before; from a Kiosk in the mall. I do not shop at them anymore! You never know when it can happen to you!

Gina said...

Sorry this happened to you, but please do not sign up for Life Lock! They are under investigation in many states and by the FTC because they are not providing what they advertise. All they really do is monitor your credit reports, which you can do FOR FREE so there's no reason to pay them exorbitant fees for it. I know I sound like a nut, but I'm not. I hate when people fall for their scam.

You can get a FREE credit report three times a year at:

Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

How terrible! I just saw that this happened to a friend of mine, too (saw it on Facebook). I'm so sorry to hear about your experience, but thank you for sharing what you learned. I'm thankful your bank returned your money!!

Monica@DailyDwelling said...

So sorry you had to go through this terrible experience. My brother and sister in law had their identity stolen by someone from the place where they bought a new car. It took them over a year to get everything cleaned up.

j3k said...

I'm so glad you were lucky enough to find out early. We found out last week we were getting sued by discover card! We have never had a discover card.....About a year ago my husband had his bank account hacked into and we thought we took all the precautions and had it all taken care of including the police report. Long story short whoever did this opened 8 credit cards in his name and maxed them out in 2 months and left my hubby with $30,000 debt. We don't have to pay it we just had to prove it wasn't us...... It is a nightmere!!! The worst part is they say it takes forever to get it off your credit report even when you do go to court and have all the police reports!!! Sad world we live in these days. Best of luck to you and make sure you keep checking and rechecking your credit for the next year after this. Ours all started with money missing from our bank account.

Hearts and Hugs

Milehimama said...

We had the same thing happen last year, while we were moving! I suspect that one of the clerks at the truckstop must have written our number down or kept a copy of the store's receipt. We didn't discover it until a week later because we were in between houses, had no phone or computer access, etc.

My new bank told me to always keep a close eye on our account. I check it online every single day (sometimes more than once a day - the online banking system updates in real time so I can see what husband spent at Taco Bell before he even gets home! LOL). A couple of months ago, someone used my debit card (as a credit card) to order pizza - I caught it in minutes! Much less hassle.

We also are very careful about who we give our card to. Cash only for groceries and incidentals, debit used to pay at the pump (where it doesn't leave our hand), and so on.

Never give a waiter your credit card!

Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa said...

Very scary, indeed. A couple of months ago someone used my SSN to open an account. It took me a week on the phone to get it straightened out. We had always been VERY careful, and can only speculate about how this happened. (The story is on my blog, if you're interested.)

Jeanette said...

Interesting that you write about this. We just had an issue with someone ordering downloads thru Amazon. We caught it after 3 downloads and Amazon credited us the $3.00 but we are wondering who would do this? Interestingly, they we downloading Christiam music...

We have signed up for Lifelock (because my DH's company had a laptop stolen that had eveyone's info on it) and they do more than just monitor your credit. My DH purchased a new vehicle and we received a phone call asking if we were purchasing a vehicle.

We also keep a VERY close eye on all credit card and bank statements. Checking each weekly.

My brother-in-law is a police man and he said that in the last 6 months theft and domestic abuse is way up in our area. Sad that people feel like they "need" what everyone else has but I am not surprised - even our President feels that everyone is "entitled" to what others have.

Praying that everything works out for ya'll!

Anonymous said...

What kind of mailbox do you have? I have heard of thieves stealing mail...instant access to tons of personal info. We take so many precautions to protect our identity while our bank account numbers sit unattended in our mailboxes. Maybe look into a po box.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of skimmers. What are they? How do they work? I also have heard LifeLock is not very good. My husband and I got identity theft insurance thru our homeowners insurance. It cost about $100 a year. If our identity is stolen, they do all the work, we don't have to worry about a thing. It is so sad that we have to even worry about someone stealing our identity!

Love your blog! Amy

Just Keeping it Real said...

Ok, I hope I'm not being stupid, but if someone uses your credit or debit card to pay a utility or phone bill can't the transaction be tracked to the phone or utility account and find the person who has their service, thus finding the perpetrator??

Somebody Loved said...

I have thought about 'identity theft' and life lock ever since my sister was a victim... but now I need to take action... before I regret it.

Thank you so much for sharing.


Dawn said...

We've had it happen twice...

The first was by my employer (Yep!). She used my ssn to get her home phone number, then called all over tarnation and didn't pay the bill. We found out about it when we went to buy our first house and it was there as an unpaid debt. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to clear up because the phone company had a file six inches thick on the woman. (She'd done it to numerous employees, it seems.)

The second time was a waiter at a restaurant - double rang our card and kept the money. We were fortunate that she was young and dumb and didn't know how to do anything else with it but that. The restuarant was very gracious and refunded the money and gave us a GC.

Now, we do all of the things you suggested and then some. Don't do Life Lock, Kristin. You can do all that they do for no money. Mainly, we check our accounts daily.

Sorry you had to deal with this but it sounds like it wasn't as painful as it could have been and a very good lesson.

mamaK said...

One tip that I do is when standing in line waiting to pay, I keep my debit card face down or with my thumb over the number. I have heard that people behind you will take a picture of your card with their camera phone to get the number...