by Damon Carr, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Help! There was $200 deducted from my account that I didn’t authorize. What should I do?
I was in the process of completing a mandatory training on Financial Exploitation of Elder and Vulnerable Adults when I received this phone call from my elderly mother informing me that her account has been hacked! How’s that for coincidence?
As I delved into her situation, I learned that she had a RushCard, named after Hip Hop Mogul Russell Simmons. The Financial Services offered by RushCard is similar to Online Banking. There are no local branches that you can walk into, sit down with someone, and get help. All communication is done by phone, website or mobile apps. My mother isn’t familiar with anything online, let alone online banking services. She’s never once typed the words Google into a search engine. How she got set up on a RushCard is beyond me? My guess is that she was watching a late night commercial, and saw a familiar face in Russell Simmons. She assumed she was supporting a Black Business — so she phoned in and signed up.
She’s had the account for a couple of years. Everything appeared to be going well, until it didn’t. My mom is like most of my clients, they call me after things go bad. Read the next sentence slowly! It would be easier and less of a headache if people called me before signing on the dotted lines. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Here’s what happened. Someone, somehow, someway got a hold of her banking details and linked it to some type of Google Pay services. They transacted nearly 30 separate Google transactions for either $2.99 or $4.99 for a grand total of approximately $200. A larger Bank would have isolated this as an unusual spending pattern for my mother and red flagged it. They would have reached out to my mom to confirm, these were legitimate charges. Not RushCard! RushCard rushed to process these transactions. Now there’s $200 missing from her account. $200 may sound like an insignificant amount to many people reading this. It’s a huge amount for my mom who lives on a modest fixed income. More on RushCard back office services later in this article. Allow me to first address what you should do if you were a victim of someone hacking your account.
Bank Locally: If you’re elderly and not familiar with modern technology, online banking isn’t for you! Technology is ever changing. If you or a loved one isn’t on the cutting edge of technology, you’re better off keeping your Banking basic. Bank with a local Bank or Credit Union that has a Branch. Should you have questions, you can visit a local Bank and get assistance. That’s a service you don’t get from Online Banking.
Stop the bleeding: Hackers are Money Vampires. Their goal is to suck you dry! Since I couldn’t get anyone on the phone at RushCard and the automation system wasn’t cooperating — I advised my mom to stop the bleeding: Withdraw all available funds from her account. Between the time I talked to her on the phone and the time she made it to the ATM, another $50 was withdrawn from her account that she didn’t authorize. Under normal circumstances, you can call and report fraudulent activity to your Bank. They will initiate a plan and process to stop the bleeding of money on your behalf.
Report fraudulent activity ASAP: If fraudulent activity on your account isn’t reported timely — normally within 1 billing cycle, you run the risk of not being reimbursed for your loss. The theory is it’s possible for fraudulent activity to go undetected for weeks. But it should be identified upon receipt of the next account statement.
Check activity on all other accounts: If hackers were able to compromise one of your accounts, it’s possible they can hijack other accounts of yours. Review activity on all other checking, saving, and credit card accounts that you own to ensure you’re not a victim in more ways than one.
Closeout hacked Account/Request New Account: This is normally an automatic process once you report fraudulent activity. Yes it will be inconvenient to go through the hassle of setting up direct deposits and auto payments with your new account. But it’s a bigger hassle to have someone stealing your money.
Trust NO ONE: Our elderly and vulnerable adults have a target on their back. Stealing money from older and/or disabled people is akin to taking candy from a baby. Hackers, Schemers, and Crooks know this! Limit the number of people who have access to your account. Identity theft, fraudulent activities, and coercion is usually done by someone you know — caregiver, relative, friend, cable man, roofer, and/or anyone and everyone who has access to your home. Stay on guard. When it comes to money, people act funny!
Hacked Funds will be put on hold: The fraudulent amount in question will be tied up for as long as 30-45 days. Money isn’t generally reimbursed until the Bank confirms fraudulent activity. Be prepared to be without that money for a period of time.
In my mother’s case, I got involved to help her through this process. Working with her through this process, I’ve come to learn that RushCard back office services SUCKS! I’ve made several calls! I went online several times. The online service routes me to a number to call. The phone line which is an automated service routes me to go online. As I write this article, I’ve yet to talk to a live person. Here’s the kicker, for fraudulent disputes, you have to send a written letter to a PO Box!
Who is writing and mailing letters in 2021!? RushCard, your back office services and practices are both terrible and antiquated!
(Damon Carr, Money Coach can be reached at 412-216-1013 or visit his website at www.damonmoneycoach.com)