Monday, August 12, 2013

Bad Times at Good Stuff

When it comes to being out and about, especially when traveling, I consider myself pretty aware of my surroundings.  Maybe even slightly paranoid.  Paranoid as in: I lock the doors to the car when I go inside to unload groceries in case someone walking by tries to run away with my Costco bundle of toilet paper. (Since that's so easy to run away with!) 

My first trip out of the country, my mom bought me one of those passport carriers you are supposed to wear under your shirt around your waist so it is safe from pickpockets and thieves.  Like a good daughter, I wore it, even when it meant I had to awkwardly reach under my shirt for my passport when it came time to check in at the airport counter.  The summer I spent abroad in college, I brought a lock and chained my suitcase to my hostel bed and literally slept with my backpack on the bed with me.  At home there are certain places I don't walk at night.  On the metro I never put my bag on the ground.  I even have an extra wallet that I put old credit cards in which I refer to as my "mugging wallet."  The idea is that if I ever get mugged, I'll throw the "mugging wallet" at the thief while I run away with the real one.  Paranoid? Maybe.  I prefer to think of it as "smart." 

So even with all my paranoia and precautions, my wallet was stolen recently. Turns out, my "mugging wallet" didn't do me much good since I don't actually carry it with me.  Plus my real wallet is/was about 4 times as big as the mugging one, so it'd be hard to miss.  I was at lunch with my back to a corner of the restaurant.  Jason was across the table, able to see behind me, so I hung my purse on the back of my chair.  I are never supposed to put your purse on the back of your chair, so it's kind of embarrassing to admit. We were at Good Stuff, probably my favorite burger place in the city.  I don't blame the restaurant.  It's just always busy and packed during lunch, which make it an ideal spot for some sticky finger action.  Jason had a clear view of my corner of the restaurant and doesn't think it was possible for anyone to get at it without him noticing, so it's possible my wallet could have been taken on the walk back to the office. Whenever it was, all I know is I paid for lunch then about an hour later got a call about suspicious activity from my bank. Within an hour a thousand dollars worth of merchandise had been charged.

Thankfully Jason was able to call a few of the banks while I called the others. We got things taken care of quickly, and the fraudulent charges were covered.  Thankfully I never carry that much cash, so didn't really lose all that much, but it was (and still is) a hassle trying to get everything replaced. The things I'm the most upset about are just being mad at myself that it I let it happen in the first place and losing some of the irreplaceable stuff: photo booth pictures that I'd had for years, CVS extrabucks, some of my frequent eater cards (I was halfway to a free meal at Nando's - talk about tragic).  Really nothing that is a big deal.  I'm thankful it wasn't my phone or entire purse.

I did learn a few lessons from the whole experience:

-Obviously, don't hang your purse where you can't see it.  (Smash my head against the wall some more.)

- Cancel your debit cards and then the obscure cards first.  Thieves are sometimes smart.  In my experience and others I've heard of, the thief or thieves used the more obscure cards in the back of the wallet most, likely thinking they're the ones you'll call to cancel last.  Of course, if you only have one or two cards, this isn't a big deal.

- Have a photocopy credit cards.  One of the more frustrating things about trying to contact my credit card companies was that the 800 number Google gave me often wasn't as direct as if I had called the number on the back of my card.  Additionally, the automated system often had you enter your card number, which is harder to do when you don't actually have the card.

- Have a photocopy of your ID.  One of the shockingly convenient things about the DC DMV is that you can replace a lost license online without the headache of the dreaded lines.  The catch is, you have to have your driver's license number - also impossible if it is stolen and you don't have a copy.

- Have an inventory of what actually is in your wallet.  I'm still remembering things that were in my wallet.  I know I got all the cards cancelled, but keep worrying that I'm forgetting something.  Like one day I'll get to the front of a long line and need something at that moment that I didn't remember was gone until that instant.

- File a police report.  For things like theft, this can be done online easily.  You never know when you'll need it for insurance purposes.  Plus, as someone who likes numbers, you can't let the crime statistics be inaccurate.  Makes that zip code seem safer than it is, yo.

-Carrying a fake wallet may or may not help you.  It definitely won't help you if it's sitting at home.

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