Saturday, April 26, 2008

London Calling

New Scotland Yard

Yesterday we received an early morning phone call from New Scotland Yard. An Inspector of Crimes from the London Metropolitan Police was calling to follow up on M's ATM card debacle.

Maybe I should back up. Wednesday (April 23) M received a phone call from the fraud security company associated with our credit union about a suspicious charge. The charge happened on April 23, or 3 days after his return from Europe. According to the security company, "M" withdrew about $400 from an ATM in Dagenham (East London) somewhere between using his card at the Post Office and the grocery store in the States. What!!!? Uh, no.

M's card was not stolen. M's card was never out of his possession as he has it in a Harley wallet with chain. M is careful and is aware of the ATM card reader scams. So how could this be?

As best as he can tell, his card was copied when he used an ATM in Heathrow Airport where he transferred to a flight to Cologne, Germany. He wanted to buy our son a post card of a Flying Scotsman train. The value of the dollar is so bad (ex: $20 bought £8, the postcard was £1 or $2.50 - yikes!) The ATM he used was next to a cash exchange place, it had no external card slider, but was the type that you insert your card. It seemed safe. His card did not get stuck or captured. However, after attempting to withdraw money, he received an error message (something about being unable to process his VISA card). He went on his way and thought nothing more about it.

Immediately after the call from the security company we cancelled his card, we put a fraud alert on his credit reports, we contacted the London Police via email, and the next day we got new accounts. Thursday I received an email reply from the London Police that Heathrow was out of their jurisdiction and they had forwarded our information to New Scotland Yard - Metropolitan Police.

Back to 7:45 am Friday morning. My cell rang and Inspector M was calling from London to follow up and complete a police report. We are very impressed with how quickly they got back to us. Inspector M was very nice, thorough, and had a very strong accent. Both M and I had a hard time not giggling as he reminded us of characters from Monty Python or Wallace and Gromit.

Play the movie above for a quick snippet of W&G

Hopefully it's all over. In fact, so far the funds have not actually been taken out of our account. It is unclear as to whether or not the thieves actually received money, or just attempted the withdrawal. If it does show up, we've already filled out the papers to contest it. That and with the police report, we would get the money back. Nevertheless, we will be nervous and check our credit reports regularly.

It does leave us scratching our heads. How did they copy his card? What newfangled technology has been developed to copy cards that are inserted (but not captured or stuck)? Will the thieves simply toss out his copied card now that it doesn't work?

Lastly, according to the police website, this type of crime tends to be perpetrated by Eastern European organized crime types vs. Brits themselves. So, did M fly all the way to London to get ripped off by the Russian Mob? We will likely never know.


RK said...

Holy cow, even though I've heard this story, this cracked me up. You rock as a storyteller!

JRS said...

Aww, schucks...