I Identify With My Identity Thief: A True Story of Bank Fraud

By
Halla.

I was finishing up a pleasant dinner with a friend last night when our waiter informed me that my debit card had been declined. "Oh, heh," I said awkwardly, mumbling something about the swipe strip being faulty. I had enough cash on me to cover dinner, so I didn't worry about it. But my card was declined again when I took a cab home.

I looked up my account online to find that it was overdrawn by over $3,000. As someone who generally sucks at managing finances, my initial reaction was one of panic and guilt. What the hell have I done? I fretted. Did I finally buy that Vespa I've always wanted and then forget about it? I racked my brain and scanned my transactions, feeling terrible about the three new sweaters I'd recently bought at the J.Crew sale. Then I saw the $2,687.04 charge to Intermix in Greenwich. Followed by the $789.34 charge at Saks. Yes, someone else was spending my money. I experienced a mixture of relief, annoyance, and jealousy: Whoever had hijacked my bank account was spending it just how I would if I had unlimited funds for a limited time.

This morning, I made the requisite phone calls to various nice people at Bank of America and shut down my card. This entailed me sheepishly going through all the transactions I'd made since Saturday, when the first fraudulent charges started showing up, and admitting that I've placed no fewer than five Seamless orders in the past four days. The conversation went like this:

Bank of America employee: "How about this $4.95 at Starbucks?"
Me: "Oh, that was mine."
Bank of America: "$52.95 at Duane Reade?"
Me: "That's mine."
Bank of America: "$843.02 at Intermix in Malibu?"
Me: "No, I wish." 
Bank of America: "$452.87 at Rent the Runway?"
Me: "Nope."
Bank of America: "$372.68 at Ideal Eyes?"
Me: "I don't even know what that is."  [Note: I have since Googled this, and it appears to be an eyelash extension salon.]

My co-worker Sally pointed out the correlation to that Friends episode when Monica's credit card gets stolen and used to do fun things that Monica's always wanted to try, like tap-dancing classes. Meanwhile, my boss Stella sensibly suggested that I call Rent the Runway and tell them that they shouldn't hold me accountable for the items they'd sent my impostor, since she probably won't return them.

The woman I talked to at Rent the Runway looked up the order, which had already been flagged as potential fraud because it was made under the name "Halla Cowles" but billed to me (consider this post my "holla" to Halla). Being a thief and all, Halla arranged to pick up her items instead of giving a shipping address.

Naturally, I asked what she'd gotten. "Three Herve Leger dresses, some bangles, and a Kate Spade bag," the customer service rep answered sympathetically. I managed to resist asking what size she was.

Creepy as it is, this kind of fraud happens all the time (our photo editor, Emily, has had her card hacked twice), and Halla probably won't get caught. The bank is refunding all the false charges, and Rent the Runway won't hold me accountable for the dresses, jewelry, and purse that Halla's probably wearing this very minute, so all's well that ends well. But if anyone comes across a girl wearing Herve Leger, carrying a Kate Spade bag, and fluttering fresh new eyelash extensions, then hide your bank cards and get the hell away. Feel free to share your own hallowing tales of identity theft in the comments below.