Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Maybe not so lucky

Yes, I'm back. Safe and sound, if a little disappointed that I never got to see the northern lights.

I don't know why that's the case - it's not as if I've never seen them before. There've been times at the farm in Fife when I've stood on the hill late at night and just stared at the whole wide panorama of the northern sky, light cascading downwards like a rippling waterfall. I've even seen them here in Wales, on a cold, cold night in January 2000.

But Iceland was supposed to be special. In many ways it was, too, and once I've gone over my notes, I'll post my journal somewhere for your edification. And pictures. But none of the aurora, so I'm going to have to go back again. When I can afford it.

Which may be a long time coming, after today's rather shocking bit of news.

Regulars will remember that a couple of weeks ago I discovered my credit card had been nobbled. I'm not sure what the correct term for it is - it wasn't identity theft as such, more just theft, since the card issuing bank had sent a replacement card to the wrong address. Or someone in the post office had intercepted it. I'm still awaiting an explanation either way.

But waiting in the pile of slightly damp mail sitting at the front door when I got home last night, was a new card. I had to phone to let them know it was here and not in the hands of some tasteless shirt-buying idiot, so I did that this morning. I wasn't surprised when I was put through to a real, live person rather than a machine, as my account is no doubt flagged with all sorts of flashing markers and noisy klaxon alarms. What I was surprised about was, upon confirming my security details, to be told that my balance stood somewhere north of six thousand pounds.

Cue embarrassed, misunderstood conversation:

Me: Umm? Have you reduced my credit limit, then?

Human: No Mr Oswald, your credit limit is still £****(like I'm going to give that away)

Me: So what was that figure you just said?

Human: Your current available credit is £***. You're current balance is £6115.

Me: Err. No it's not. There shouldn't be anything on there at all. That card was stopped two weeks ago, and I paid off the balance last week.

Human: Hmm. So you didn't buy anything in Eltham on October 2nd?

Me: I think you'd better put me through to Peril in fraud...

Now, two weeks ago when this whole shebang kicked off, I went through my outstanding transactions carefully over the phone with the nice lady from fraud called Peril. She and I both agreed that the last transaction had occurred on the previous Sunday and was for the purchase of fuel at a garage in Aberystwyth. At that point, or so I was lead to believe, a stop had been put on my card. No more transactions would be possible. In fact, anyone trying to use that card after that time would be tackled and wrestled to the ground by alert sales staff, restrained until an officer of the law could be summoned, and then thrown into jail. No one can pretend to be me and expect to get off with it lightly.

After my discussion with Peril (or should that be Peryl?) a fortnight ago, I also phoned the bank back, ascertained what my current balance was, and made sure that it was paid in full. Only a fool uses a credit card to borrow money. I always pay the balance in full each month, and it was only because my statement hadn't arrived at its normal time that I'd been alerted to anything wrong with the account in the first place.

But somehow, despite everything I had done and everything my bank had said it had done, an enterprising fellow had walked into a Goldsmiths Jewellers in Eltham on October 2 and spent £6115 whilst pretending to be me.

£6115. On jewellery. Bugger me. I hope she was worth it.

At the beginning of the year I bought a new telly from a well-respected mail order and internet company; one whom I had used in the past for cheaper purchases. I phoned, rather than filling in a form online, because I wanted to get the best of their price-match deal. The telly was expensive by my thinking - I hardly ever watch the thing these days. But the Horse Doctor likes her sport, gardening and cookery programmes, and I occasionally get to watch a film. Our old telly, whose final smoking demise necessitated this purchase, was a behemoth of a thing I'd picked up in a closing-down sale at Comet in Perth back in 1995, and if I was going to have something that would last another twelve years then it needed to be pretty much state of the art.

So it was that I found myself parting with the thick end of a thousand pounds. Only, when the salesman on the other end of the phone tried to input the number, it came back denied, please refer to issuing bank.

Cue much embarrassment on my part. But a swift call to the bank revealed that they had a policy of requesting confirmation on larger purchases. What the salesman should have been telling me was to phone my bank, tell them all was OK, and then the sale would go ahead. So I did that, and now a spangly new telly hangs on our living room wall.

The point being, that transaction was for less than one sixth of the one made two weeks ago. It should, by the bank's logic, have been held up until I had made contact, given them my password and personal details, and then told them I really meant to blow all my hard-earned on some tasteless piece of bling. But it wasn't. It was just flashed through, quick as you please.

I should be all right. The bank should acknowledge their mistake and cancel the charge to my card. Right now I'm still waiting to hear from the fraud department, but given my earlier phone calls and the notes on my file, the fault is quite obviously theirs. Still, I think I shall take Gabriele's advice and get the credit limit shaved a good deal. The world out there's not safe anymore.


-- post script--

A thought occurs to me. My card is one of those ones that operates a points and vouchers scheme, whereby for (almost) every pound you spend, you get points, which can then be redeemed for store vouchers. £6000 is about £50 worth of John Lewis spending. I wonder if they'll let me keep the points.

Nah, probably not.

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