Cyber Crime: Extortion

timwilliams By timwilliams, 31st Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Crime

How cyber crimes have come to pray on Seniors who depend on their Social Security

Cyber Crime: Extortion

In these tough economic times especially for our seniors it really comes as no surprise that the unscrupulous will always find a way to deceive, steal, and extort as much money they can get from the unsuspecting individual. Webster defines extortion as the crime of obtaining money or property by threat to a victim's property, a loved one, intimidation, and a false claim of a right. Most states define extortion as the gaining of another individuals property or money by almost any means. Whether it is actual violent assault, threat of physical harm, intimidation or out right deception are all crimes.

Today, the deception in extortion comes mostly through cyber thefts. Take the case of one Sandy Homes, a 66 year old single mother of two grown children living entirely on her Social Security monthly payments. Tuesday, was just one of those days where Murphy's Law took effect. For Sandy the day started out uneventful enough stopping at the local coffee shop where she purchased a bagel and coffee . There she used her debit card and everything seemed fine. It wasn't until she was ready to check out of the neighborhood Wal-Mart that Murphy's Law took hold. After her groceries were all ready loaded into her cart Sandy took out her Debit card punched in her pin only to have the transaction being denied. After a brief moment of panic she again swiped her debit card only this time instead of punching in her pin number she switched it to a credit card no pin required. To her immediate delight and all those impatient crowds waiting behind her the credit card was accepted. The total bill came to $83.64

On the way home questions kept running through conscious thought. Sandy knew she recently brought some stuff on line, $72 worth of vitamins and spices. It was just two weeks ago that her car was repaired at a cost of $600. And, it was just yesterday that she had lunch at Christo's for $15 tip included. All these transactions were done using her debit card she got from Social Security. When she first applied to have her Social Security payments loaded onto the Direct Express debit card from Comerica Bank instead of a direct deposit at Chase where she had an account little did she know that this Direct Express card was filled with unknown variables. As it turns out these debit cards from Social Security are really no better than those Net Spend and Wells Fargo instant direct cards that we see so often advertised on TV.

When Sandy's pin wasn't accepted at Wal-Mart after just using it an hour earlier her intuition knew something was amiss. After she got home and the groceries were put away she called the number on the back of the card. Customer service told her she had a negative balance. That set off an immediate response as to why a negative balance when it is just her Social Security that is loaded onto this Direct Express card. This card is not linked to any other bank account. Now getting a little frustrated because all the service rep told Sandy there was a negative balance of over $1000 when Sandy started out that morning she checked her balance on that Direct Express where it stated a balance left on her account was $181.54. Her next Social Security deposit wasn't scheduled until next week where a deposit of $1289 will be issued.

Sandy was now in full anger mode when the service rep couldn't identify the transaction that made her balance go negative and why the bank let the overdraft go through in the first place. Normally banks keep records of all transactions as to what amount is being charged and who is the recipient of that charge. Apparently that is not the case with Direct Express. All the service rep told Sandy that a charge of $998 went through some time that morning and where it went was any bodies guess.

Feeling violated Sandy immediately asked if she will be reimbursed that $998 charge that she had no knowledge of and when will it show up in her account. All the service rep told her it will take at least one month until the investigation runs it's course. And that is no guarantee that the money will come back into the account. And to make Sandy's day she might have to pay another $50 charge if the bank can't locate who and where that initial $998 charge went. So now Sandy is left with knowing that Comerica is not a very secure bank for she has to fill out a police report that her account was hacked and the threat of renewed thefts into her account is now more than likely.

Two days later Sandy got a new Direct Express card where the next weeks Social Security deposit will be available. She is going to take that money once it is deposited into her card and open a bank account at a major financial institution where there is a clear understanding of just what the banks responsibilities are and having a record of where and who of each transaction recorded so that there will be very little space for an individual to hack into Sandy's financial records and account.

A lesson learned the hard way. But for all you seniors who want to use debit cards for your Social Security deposits beware of the case of one Sandy Homes for what happened to her it could very well happen to you. The best way to prevent a case like Sandy's is to use a reputable financial institution. One that you already have had a successful relationship with and open an account where your Social Security allotments are deposited. And, use their bank card as a debit. Another safety tip to ensure financial security have one major credit card either from that same financial institution or from another reputable source like American Express. Maybe, if Sandy had reopened here account at Chase the money taken from her account would not have happened. It is always best to check and recheck you account information each and every day for all it takes is just an unscrupulous individual a few seconds to tap into accounts and wreck havoc on your financial security.

Cyber Security today is one of the fastest growing businesses around. It is too bad for the Sandy Homes out there to find out that those Direct Express cards are really not as reputable as they claim. That old slogan only you can prevent cyber thefts from devastating your financial security is very true. Prevention by education and checking your transactions every day is one of the best ways to mitigate the chances of having some unscrupulous individual violate your financial well being.


Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Social Security, Theft

Meet the author

author avatar timwilliams
I am a feature writer for The Tampa Bay Examiner and The American chronicle. Earned Ph.D in Economics

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
2nd Nov 2015 (#)

Interesting Post!

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