Paul Meloan – Vested Interest

I am not the guy who checks his accounts every single day but I may become him.

Every account in my life has online access and I am in the habit of checking them every few days.  I also use account aggregators like Mint and Personal Capital to monitor accounts and track activity.

Thursday night happened to be one of the days I checked and I immediately saw that someone had withdrawn $300 in two transactions from my USAA checking account.

From an ATM.  In Montreal, Quebec.  On Thursday I was in Gaithersburg and Bethesda, Maryland.

I called USAA and reported the withdrawals.  I spent 28 minutes on the phone with them (yeah, I tracked it) and got disconnected once.  The reps were trying to be friendly while I was mostly just annoyed, but I imagine they encounter that all day, every day.

The bottom line is that my ATM access is frozen until I receive a new card, which should be Monday.  The money was put back in my account by USAA the next morning.

The next morning (Friday) I received an email from Chase that they had declined a suspicious looking online purchase and wanted to verify I had made it.  I had not.  It was a modest purchase ($55) from a large online site, but nothing I had ever bought before.

One email response and 8 minutes on the phone with Chase (yeah, I tracked it again) and my card will be replaced.  No fraudulent charges went through.

The bottom line for you as a consumer:

1.  Fraud happens, every single day.  I still don’t think it’s necessary to hover over your accounts like they are a toddler at a swimming pool but it’s important to have the habit of checking them on a regular basis.  There is still no substitute for reasonable diligence.

2.  When you see fraud, say fraud.  Report the fraud immediately so your bank can mitigate the hassle you are about to experience.

3.  Yes, there will be hassle.  That’s why I have five credit cards.  I have two trips coming up this week, and I will be relying upon my credit cards for virtually all my expenses.  I won’t miss the one that is useless to me because I have several other cards.

UPDATE: On Saturday at ~11:15am the Fed Ex guy came to the house with my new USAA debit/ATM card.  Now I will be able to withdraw cash if needed on my upcoming trip. That’s roughly 38 hours from report to replacement.  I’d call that a win: well-played USAA!

Paul Meloan is the co-founder and co-managing member of Aegis Wealth Management, LLC, in Bethesda, Maryland USA. Before Aegis Paul was a practicing attorney as well as working in the tax practice of Ernst & Young, LLP.

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