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Friday, February 10, 2006

When it rains it pours.

If you read the previous post on the sick child, here is something that makes you wonder what the world is coming to.

First the little one got a shot of antibiotics. Later the doctors switched her to an oral anitbiotic suspension. They told us that even if the baby threw up 50% it was okay. Giving her shots twice a day was not an option. So I go to the local Rite Aid (Pharmacy) and picked up her medication. The medicine costs close to 100 dollars but thanks to insurance, we paid only 10 bucks. An hour after I had charged the 10 dollars to my debit card (which ties into my checking account, but can also be used as a mastercard), there was another charge for 400+ dollars which disappeared from our checking account !! This on the same day that I decide to pay University tuition. We suddenly had a situation where checks were bouncing and all hell was breaking loose. My wife called the store and asked them what was going on. The assistant manager claimed that there was no transaction matching that 400+ dollar amount that day ..

My wife got suspicious because the lady didnt think twice before answering and our bank confirmed that it was an "authorized transaction".. that means someone signed a paper recipt for that transaction. With a sick kid at home and another one stuck in daycare, (I had gone back to work in the afternoon to tie up some loose ends), had to drop everything and run to the store.

Once at the store, I told the pharmacy clerk that I need a copy of the receipt I signed for the 10 dollars to prove to my bank that I signed the original 10 dollars (this was actually suggested by my bank - they wanted me to see if there was another transaction in my card). This trick worked. The temporary employee in the store showed me all the receipts and said "tell me which one is yours ?".. I quickly went through them one by one and found out two things :

1. my original 10 $ was no where to be found
2. there was a 400+ dollar charge on my card which someone else had signed !!!!!!

I immediately confronted the store manager who made me stand at the counter for an hour and 10 minutes while he tried to figure out what was going on. NO SORRY, NO Chair for the guy to sit down, no response on how long it was going to take !!!
I told them that I had to go pick up my kid from daycare and cannot wait there indefinitely. By the time I went out of the store and came back in, they had figured out what was going on and had a nice cover up plan ready !!

He showed me the original purchase, Iron tablets, love potions !! and a 400 $ Rite Aid gift card. The funny thing was that my card has always been in my pocket and I could not complain of credit card theft. That is when my bank told me that this was possibly an inside job and that I should call the cops.

So we call the cops and the cop shows up at the store and finds too many irregularities in the store..Their story ?

1. by mistake they left my signed receipt for the 10 bucks on the counter, instead of keeping inside the cash register with the cash
2. some hispanic lady who was hanging around the pharmacy for hours ?!? leaned over the counter and stole my receipt confirmation.
3. she came back 30 minutes later and told them that she wanted to buy some stuff (said stuff being iron, vitamin tablets, LOVE POTION !! and a 400 $ gift card). But SHE FORGOT TO BRING HER CREDIT CARD !!! Here is the best part. She doesnt have her card , but she knows the 16 digit number and was ready to read it to the pharmacy clerk ...
4. the clerk took pity on her (must have really looked bad because she needed love potion and vitamins) and decided to proceed with the transaction without an actual card. They let her sign the receipt with a scribble..and they dont verify the signature with any photo ID (remember, the minute you enter the card number, they will automatically know the name on the card !) and proceeded to give her the goodies with that signature.

I am supposed to swallow this bull and go home with my checking account minus 400+ dollars and blame this on some hispanic woman who stole my receipt according to this store. The fact that the store manager, pharmacy clerk and the lady at the counter where discussing the whole thing in their common language (some south east asian language) added insult to injury. The temp told me something really funny when I had first asked her for the receipt. "no one buys stuff for 400+ dollars at the pharmacy counter.. at the main store counter it is possible.. I would have remembered a 400+ dollar transaction !!". Such a highly non standard transaction carried out without a real credit card, without signature or ID validation ?? I think not. The cops are still investigating and they are going to give out a report.

The next day I spent another hour calling RITE AID headquarters and my bank and finally RITE AID headquarters has accepted that their employees have violated standard protocol and something does look fishy. So they called my bank and cancelled the charge. In the meantime I had to cancel the account and move my money around to make sure that they dont walk away with my checking account ! Who knows, they might charge a few thousand dollars worth of viagra.

RITE AID headquarters is also starting an investigation into the matter.. Will we get compensated in some way for all the crap we went through still dealing with a sick kid, we do not know. But the least we could do is tell the world to watch out for this type of fraud. From now on, if given the option always use a CREDIT card. Do not use your debit card as a mastercard or visa at local stores, pharmacies. If I had used my credit card, and they tried to do this, the card company can at least block the transaction and refuse to pay, provided you find out about this within 24 hours. In my case, the mastercard was tied to my checking account and that means it is like withdrawing cash !!

Our only thought. If they did decide to use an existing card number and defraud some customer, why pick on a dude who is buying powerful antibiotics for a three month old ?? Why cant they pick someone else who is just buying multivitamins or viagra ??


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

Oh,am sorry to hear this incident..
Thats really scary and i could sense the tension that you went thru'
Take care..

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:44 PM, Blogger Unknown wrote...

thanks prabhu.

i guess there is a lesson in this for all of us.. i have been extremely careful all these years. the timing of this thing was off.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 6:33 AM, Blogger Visithra wrote...

even after the cops came in they claimed something else? dear god what kind of sick ppl

u guys take care - especially the little ones

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

We too had a check fraud recently. We had to close our bank accounts. I feel for you. It is a pain. Our only hope is that it was a one-time incident and that there has not been any identity theft!


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:30 AM, Blogger Swetha wrote...

Hope UR little one is better now. Yours is quite a scary experience.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:00 PM, Blogger Anu wrote...

Sundar..sorry abt the whole thing.I hope the lil one is better now. n which Rite Aid was this?...btw shouldnt u be suing them for all this stuff..


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:46 PM, Blogger tt_giant wrote...

Lawyer a approach pannunga sundar. summa vidaadheenga..

take care.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 1:15 PM, Blogger Balaji S Rajan wrote...

Sorry about it. From this I could understand that we need to be alert always and not use our debit card which I also do sometime. But in UK, most of the places we have this PIN verification, rather than signing. Anyhow... take care.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 8:59 PM, Blogger Unknown wrote...

Sundar, hope the little one is doing better now. Thinking of you guys

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 1:11 AM, Blogger Visithra wrote...

hows the little one now - hope shes better

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 1:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

In the same ways a credit or debit card can be used for good causes, people are equally adept in finding ways to manipulate and cheat others. In a recent incident, a card reader was used by a person to read the card of the users and later this information was used to make purchases using fake cards created through the card reader.

There are several software wizs around today who can decode the encrypted messages etc. Why dont we use cash for small expenses.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 5:12 AM, Blogger Jagan wrote...

this is freaking bad ...eppadi ellam aappu vaikkuranga ..

i think i sud start tracking my credit/debit card transactions ..I have never noted these things .

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 5:39 AM, Blogger Yours Truly wrote...

How is the little one doing now?
Take Care!!

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:24 PM, Blogger Unknown wrote...

thanks to all of you for your wishes.. finally got some time and finally ourmedia cooperated in uploading video blogs !!

it was down the last four days.

btw, the real answer to anons question .. we dont keep cash around. we got so used to cards !!

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

It is not a big deal to prove that it is a fraudulent transaction.

Every major store has surveillance cameras in front of the counter. As the transaction time is known, it is easy to track the culprit.

Don't worry... Relax!!

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

I always wonder why people even have debit cards. Is there any advantage with using a debit card ?

CCs nowadays give u cashback, buyer protection et all... time to ponder

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 5:30 PM, Blogger shannon wrote...

isn't it amazing how insecure credit card transactions are these days?! even though this all seems like an "inside job," the story they presented- about someone using just your card numbers without the card present- is absolutely believeable. This has, in fact, happened to me. my numbers were stolen and used at a gas station!!

now, though, most credit card companies/banks have all kinds of fraud protection. if you haven't gotten your money back and gotten all this resolved by now, you absolutely will. even though the inconvenience is horrible.

good luck to you...


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