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Credit Card Fraud, What an Ordeal!

My online shopping habits have made me a huge target for credit card theft. The ease of buying airline tickets, concert tickets or even presents online is the only way I can make my purchases with my hectic schedule.
The first time I had credit card theft was about 5 or 6 years ago. The bank account was in the US so through some paperwork and a few signatures, my bank reimbursed me for the fraudulent activity. It was quite quick and painless for me and my new credit card arrived only a few short weeks later so all was well.  Recently, since relocating to the UAE, I experienced credit card fraud on my newest UAE credit card. The bank alerted our finance director who is our main point of contact for our corporate cards as well as suspended my card’s activity immediately. The unusual and repetitive charges happened hours after an airline ticket online.

The experience has been a unique one for me as the bank called me many times on my mobile telling me who they were and from which bank. They continued with a very vague explanation about the reason of their call and that I first needed to prove to them who I was by answering a few security questions. This was odd as I had no proof that they were actually from the bank. At one stage I tried to answer the non-threatening questions but failed. The call ended with the female representative telling me she could not continue as I could not prove that I was truly the cardholder. Ha!

After this ongoing rollercoaster ride of vague emails and strange, almost prank-like  phone calls, we concluded that in order to have these charges erased from my account, I needed a police report.

This was, as anyone can imagine, a very unpleasant adventure for me. I went alone and put on a brave face. The first police station that I was referred to was the main HQ branch and while waiting in line the police assistant very rudely questioned my presence. Calmly, I explained my situation and she asked me questions such as ‘who stole your credit card?’ and ‘where did this happen?’ As anyone who has had their card cloned knows, these were questions that could not be answered. I showed her my paperwork and explained that I was just following the minimal direction from my bank. She then asked where my bank was… Again, in this new age of the Internet, banks are basically virtual – they are everywhere, aren’t they? Who actually goes into a bank branch anymore?
After a near tears experience with far too many angry people in too small of a congested space, I was told to go to another police station.

Police station number two was slightly less intimidating. Maybe this was partly because I had already experienced the chaos of the police’s main station. I knew the first step upon entry was to take a number. What looked like a ticket machine caught my eye but when I got closer, it was too foreign for me to understand. Three very official looking men were sitting behind a nearby desk so I asked them what I needed to do with a brief explanation of the reason for my visit. One barked at me, ‘room number 8’ followed by a name I could not comprehend. Why I was starting to feel like the criminal is unexplainable but I was slowly starting to lose any confidence I had started the day with.

During the next 3 hours, I bounced between room number 8 and another counter full of – what seemed to be – criminal report takers / writers. Of the 5 computer monitors / desks (imagine a panel of bank tellers), only 2 were occupied with police officers. There was no organization and many men speaking Arabic jumped the queue and barged their way into the attention of the officers. I had no chance in this section even though the Room Number 8 man brought me over and seemed to instruct them to take my report next. I sat quietly and comfortably and even played a few hands of Solitaire on my iPhone as I predicted a long wait. Finally, a new employee arrived, asked me if I was the one who was reporting credit card fraud and when he learned it was via the internet, sent me back to Room Number 8 for the final time. This officer – who I believe was the boss – must have sympathised for me and after some Arabic shouting between them, he agreed to personally handle my case.

Thinking I was nearly done was not wise. The creation of this criminal report was a long process as he, naturally, had to take my report, translate it, the related documents and my phonetic name into Arabic. This took time. To add to it, inquiries and guests entered and exited his office freely. Each time grabbed his attention which delayed my mission’s completion.

Finally, we reached the final stage. He reviewed it with me to check the accuracy. I was thrilled! It was over… Not so fast, as if suddenly he thought of one final glitch, he asked me if I had my bank’s legal report regarding this fraudulent activity. Why would my bank not know to provide this stamped, official letter? All my hope and relief went flying out the window. I explained to him that I was not aware of this document and I did not have it. He explained that I must return personally tomorrow to his office with this document for him to give me my criminal report. New glitch! I was leaving to South Africa with my family for 2 weeks. I asked him if I could have one of our company driver’s deliver this document and collect my criminal report. Hesitantly, he agreed. He seemed disappointed in my answer but I was thrilled to leave – even if it was empty handed.

As you can imagine, our driver could submit the bank’s officially stamped letter, but was unable to collect my criminal report. Only today, 3 weeks later, could I give an authorization letter to our finance director to pick up my report on my behalf. After 3 painful hours of waiting, she returned with the mission accomplished!  Now, I can put this experience behind me but something tells me this could possibly not be my last time attempting to manoeuver through this labyrinth.

One Response to “Credit Card Fraud, What an Ordeal!”

  1. Peter says:

    Sounds like a very unpleasant experience. This has been in the news quite a lot recently. I wonder if one particular banks customers are being targeted or whether all banks customers are targeted.

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