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    Been There, Done That: Nine Decades And Counting By Alice Herb: What I Hate To Do But Have To Do Anyway

    By Alice Herb


    I’ve just returned from the bank where I was trying to withdraw cash from my account to deposit the money across the street in my granddaughter’s bank account. The withdrawal ended up being simple but when I got to the other bank, it was closed. So I had to re-cross the street, re-deposit the cash, and wait until Monday to start all over again. Now that in itself is nothing to hate but I have just gone through a nasty experience that caused me to close my checking account and open a new one. Why? Because some cheeky thieves somehow gained access to my account number and printed their name and address on counterfeit checks they created. Thus they wrote one check for $9,800 and a couple of others for smaller amounts. It was I who discovered the fraud. I called the bank just two days after the bank posted the debit on my account. Since a picture of the fraudulent check could be viewed on the account, I assumed this was going to be a simple correction.  


    Ah, but how wrong could I be. And there is nothing I hate more than having to waste time fixing the errors made by such “prestigious” businesses as banks. My discussions with the fraud department of the bank were less than satisfying. I had two options – freezing the account or risk having more checks presented by the thieves. Of course, I opted to freeze the account. The other option was unacceptable. But here was the sticking point – the bank did not immediately credit my account. The situation had to be investigated and therefore, I would have to wait until the investigation was complete. Although my report was accepted, they could not actually act on it until I signed some paperwork that I could not do that day as it was a Saturday, close to closing time. What a pain! I managed to find a competent bank officer on Monday who advised me that it could take up to a week before a new account could be opened. I could not withdraw any money nor write any checks nor pay any bills online. I asked several times why I was taking all the risks and inconvenience when I had nothing to do with this failure. It was the bank that had accepted a fraudulent check even though the bank had not checked with me as to whether I had written such a large check (which they had done in the past.) If you are bored reading this, it was infuriating to me to have to trek back and forth to the bank and actually run out of cash. My son had to come over with some cash so I could navigate through the waiting period. But the insult to injury has been that the bank has charged me a fee for my account falling below their minimum for a free personal checking account while holding on to the $9,800 theft!!! 


    I now have a new checking account but this account is not secure as somehow the thieves accessed my new User-ID and Password and now I have to change my User-ID and Password for the second time this week and my account remains under surveillance. That makes all unusual transactions suspicious, so I have to approve them by phone or text. 


    Now we are back to me trying to send my granddaughter the money I promised her. Once again I shall spend time in the bank and hope that all will have been straightened out. If this had been an isolated happening, I would be more tolerant but the numerous other mishaps I will share with you – in brief – should be convincing as to why I am so disgruntled.


    Just to show you what I mean: In the most recent past, all three of the credit cards I use have been compromised. I did not lose any money, just aggravation and time. One of those cards was used to pay for my Metrocard (subway & bus) and my EZPass (tolls). Another was for grocery shopping and my Costco account. I can’t remember what other services I used and charged to one or another of these cards. Eventually, I had to update several accounts with the new numbers. Have you ever tried to reach any of these companies by phone? I figure I must have a very healthy heart because I procrastinate until I can no longer stand it and must fix it. I cannot bear to hang on the phone with that awful music playing. But I do try and when I get a real person on the phone, I will frequently be told I have the wrong department. That brings me to Costco….


    For several years I could not order online because none of the passwords worked. I wondered if they really wanted to sell merchandise or if they were more involved in playing mind games with the public. I finally managed to fix that because I called the Executive Offices of the company, and after shuttling to three different numbers, I learned that Costco has three different divisions, all with their own accounts, and they do not share each other’s information until requested. Now I feel cool that I know how to contact Costco online but I haven’t tried because I am anxious that it won’t work.


    Think of telephone companies. They no longer publish their telephone numbers. I have asked their representatives if they knew what product they represented. None of them saw the irony in my question. I spent hours trying to straighten out telephone, internet, TV issues, etc.


    How about reaching your doctor? Here in this metropolitan area, it takes real skill to reach out to your doctor in one try. If the physician works within a large hospital, as mine does, you might first reach a phone service that will connect you with a bank of employees who may connect you with the department (Primary Care, Geriatrics, Neurology, etc.) and perhaps take a message or suggest a future appointment. If it’s an emergency, likely you may be referred to the newish urgent care centers that have opened up to do the primary exam for treatment or to call 911. I have often wondered if anyone has ever died in the interval in reaching a HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL.


    Finally (although this is not a complete list of headaches) think Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. Not only do they change or – as they may put it “update” – their products entirely too often but as they make their updates, they do not instruct the consumer on what needs to be changed or added. Apple at least has the grace of its Genius Bar if you have the time, energy, and strength to bring your device into an actual location with adequately trained personnel.


    I hope you have stopped stressing and begun to laugh. But this is the world we live in. I, for one, now look back longingly to my 4th grade classroom. That of course was in the Middle Ages. But the excitement of the day was that the teacher was going to put ink in the inkwell in our wooden desks and hand out wooden pens and nibs. Wow, how special that day was. And the worst things that could happen were that the nib would break or accidental ink blots fell on desks and paper. And it didn’t take hours, days, and months to fix the tools of communication.


    P.S. After writing this I thought I could return to normal. No way! The young, very attentive, and competent bank officer urged me to change my Google password. I did that immediately. This simple act caused another avalanche of trouble. All three of my Gmail accounts no longer appeared on my screen. I was truly hysterical but I had a lunch appointment with my friend, a family practice physician, mostly retired, who immediately came over to help. He not only brought my Gmails back but told me that Google also had a “Help Desk” and that it was located a block away from Apple. I took his advice and actually went over to Google. One of the young men there fixed the information so that I could easily access it, then sent me to Apple where most of the damage was fixed. All told it cost me at least half a day of scrambling to fix it myself and then the time to travel to both companies, wait for an expert, and then time to fix it. I am exhausted but also angry at the disfunction and lack of oversight by companies and of course, the federal government.


    PPS. Guess what! I just tried to order online from Costco and they advised that I was a Non Member. Here we go again. When I called the customer representative she said she could not correct it and gave me more instructions on what to do. I am back to contacting the Executive Offices!


    Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 90+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at [email protected].

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