On Growing Up: Bank/Credit Card Statements

Just another step on the road to being all grown up!

The way I track my spending is by keeping an Excel spreadsheet of my cash levels, savings account, and checking account. I plug in all my purchases soon after the expenditure, whether by receipt (if I get one) or by memory. I have a column for weekly summaries, and a column for monthly summaries, to show how much I’ve spent or made in a month. This gets me into the practice of doing weekly reconciliations, checking my wallet for how much cash I actually have–as opposed to what the spreadsheet says, because usually I forget to log small purchases–and my online bank statements, to see if my spreadsheet lines up. It’s a good thing I do this, and I’d recommend that you do it, too.

Why? Because I was performing a reconciliation last Friday, and I found two purchases on my online debit card statement that I didn’t find familiar. The items read “BLS*WEBLEARN8884612032 ST JULIANS” for March 17, one as a purchase and the other as an international transaction fee. I figured I had made a purchase and I didn’t remember it, since that happens sometimes–I wait a few days to log something, and by that time I’ve forgotten about it. There was nothing in my paper receipts for a purchase on that date, so I looked in my email to see if I had forgotten about an online order. Still nothing. Checked my calendar to see if I remembered making a purchase that day. Nope. At this point, I realized that I had no idea what this company was, or what I would have ordered from them…

So I googled the company to find out who they were. It’s a scam! Some folks based internationally (in Malta, presumably St. Julian’s) are charging small amounts to peoples’ debit and credit cards in the range of $10-15, presumably hoping that they will be overlooked. This is why it’s important to check your debit and credit card statements–first in the event that the bank makes a mistake and takes too much money, or in the case that the card’s security has been compromised and fraudulent charges made. It’s a part of growing up! If you have a card, you really need to be checking your statements regularly.

I called Bank of America’s telephone number regarding fraud. While I wish that I could have gotten to a human operator more quickly, I understand that it’s more cost-effective to have an automated system to screen and sort calls. So after I made my way through the menu, I did indeed get to speak with a representative, who examined my statements and identified the two fraudulent charges. He reassured me that my money would be refunded, per Bank of America’s “zero fraud policy.” (It’s technically called “zero liability protection,” but this raises a question: Does Bank of America, or any other bank, have “limited liability protection”? Does anyone ever call them with fraudulent charges and hear, “Oh, sorry. We have a “partial fraud policy,” and this isn’t covered. Anyway.) He closed the debit card and directed me toward my local branch to pick up a new one. Other than the annoyance of having to change debit cards, it wasn’t that terrible an experience. I called on Saturday and I’ve already received my refunds; picked up a new debit card and everything. It’s good to know that Bank of America will refund any fraudulent charges on my accounts.

Moral of the story: If you use a card, you have to check your statements. Get into the habit of it. It could save you a lot of headache someday!

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