Penned Up
Pens in My Pocket


I know it's been awhile, and I hate to return with this cautionary tale, but that's what's happening.

I balance my checkbook every month, right down to the penny.

I was almost done this month when I noticed a weird check on my statement for $34.31. It was numbered way out of sequence. I looked at the check image and was even more confused. It was an e-check, one of those deals where you authorize a company to issue a check for you that you don't need to sign. It was made out to a company I'd never heard of: RS New Formula LLC. Our checking account number and bank routing number were on the bottom of the check, in the right banking font.

I couldn't remember authorizing anything like this, but maybe Joe did. He thought it might have been the dash cam he ordered, but no - whenever he orders something, he uses his American Express card. Curiouser and curiouser.

I called the 800 number listed on the check and got a phone tree that went nowhere. So I googled the company and got a business listing. There was the company name and address, and the names of  two principals, and that was that. Then I read a couple of comments - and my suspicions were confirmed. The comments both said that this company had issued bogus checks with stolen account numbers.

I called the bank's fraud number to report the scam. When I finally got through to an actual person, that actual person was great. She pulled up the check image and agreed that it was bogus, despite the routing and account numbers on the bottom. Oh yeah, my last name was misspelled as well. She immediately refunded my money, and advised me to freeze my account and open a new one.

And I will - but what a huge pain in the ass! But I know it's a hell of a lot better to suck it up and change all of my accounts - including my direct deposits from Social Security and my employer - than to take the chance on these thieves writing themselves another, much larger check.

I've changed my password and activated two-factor authentication. I reported the scam to the Better Business Bureau. I wanted to file a Suspicious Activity Report, but those are for money laundering and filed by corporations.

So beware, my friends. Check your bank statements carefully. Follow up immediately. We can defeat the criminals.