(this is Part 2 - Part 1 is below)
The day I discovered the Wal Mart charges. I checked pretty much everything financial having to do with me. I looked at all my bank accounts, and pulled all of my credit reports. Everything looked fine so it appears that the problem is isolated to a stolen checking account number.
That same day because I wanted to cover some outstanding checks and I didn't want my friends to have to deal with returned checks (my fees will be refunded but I can't say the same thing about there's), I transferred $ to cover those checks. Today I took a look and the number looked similar but there was a minus sign in front of it. Uh oh, that'll teach me to put more money in a questionable account. Looking at the account detail reveals that two more checks have come in and these are actual checks:
[I will put the images here once I edit them]
Looking at them shows the person didn't even try to match my signature and a coworker tells me that what the store is looking for is a match to a drivers license signature. That implies that they have a driver's license with my name on it which is a little scary and makes me wonder if I should get a new one - however they're using a different number so that won't help. And I just love the high end places they're going. $800 and $400 at Nordstrom Rack? How the heck do you spend $1200 at Nordstrom Rack? What kind of clothes horse are we dealling with here? A not very bright one or a desperate one as the checks are stamped with the time, date, and cash register number and these places have cameras. Maybe she (let's be sexist and assume she - there's a large home depot just down the street from that store) is wearing a large hat or something. And she is able to print off new checks (I really wish that wasn't possible), and get a hold of a fake driver's license.
So the recommendation now is to close and freeze the account, and open a new one. I've done that, but now I'm in a 2 week poor house holding pattern while I wait for them to return the $2000+ to me. I do have some money in the house account that I can use and there's Bank of Terri and my work has graciously offered to help out if I need it.
So the question is how did this happen and what can I do to avoid it in the future. It's clear that I need to use cash and avoid checks for lower amounts to buisinesses I don't know which is a royal pain, I hate cash more as it disappears so easily, so I'm going to have to treat cash like a check and write it down in the register. As far as what happened to the check, number one suspect is a large dr's office where I'm not a regular customer. Most of my checks are to friends and to well known agility organizations who I trust. I almost always use my debit card for retail situations. Ironically it's the house accout that's more vulnerable since more large checks go through it, but so far it's been ok.
It would be cool to have an account that stipulates the checks have to look a certain way and only that way. I'd put my photo on a check if it would help.
I sent email to those folks that had outstanding checks, saying that while I had told the bank about their checks that it would probably be better if they destroyed that check and I could write them new one.
So I wait.... (tick tick tick)
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