Tag: B of A

The IRS Sucks. And so does TurboTax.

Holy crap check this out. I was penalized 6k in 2007 despite overpaying by 2k, because TurboTax did not transmit the money on the 14th of April, even though I got a successful transmission message after clicking the button. I was notified after the deadline, by the IRS, that they never got my payment. So I hired a tax lady, who wrote me a nice letter and attached some screen shots of my TurboTax account showing I paid on time and it was a software problem. So I thought I cleaned up last year’s problem. I was stoked!

I literally just licked the envelope to send off the correspondence to the IRS about the 2007 problem, and continued to tend to my bills. In the pile, there was another letter from the IRS. This one says I owe almost 18k for my 2006 taxes. Because apparently, TurboTax did the same thing that year. But the IRS waited almost 2 years so they could add an additional 6k in penalties and interest.

So now, out of the blue, I am 22k in the hole with the government. And I swear I paid that 12k, I remember it clear as day. In 2006 I found out the transmission did not go through and sent them a check. Bank of America said they cannot find the check, but I remember it plain as day.  Plus both years, I was paying my taxes the whole time.  But of course, the IRS can always figure out ways to squeeze a little extra out of a brotha.

I called the IRS, and they basically said I am S.O.L. and any problems I have had with software have nothing to do with the bottom line, which is, I owe them 22k right now. And as for Bank of America, it’s not like I backed up my transaction logs, so I depend on their system to pull data when needed.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but how the heck did both B of A and the IRS lose record of that transaction? And how can The IRS justify waiting until 6k in interest and penalties is accrued to inform me about the 2006 problem?  And how can they justify penalizing me 6k for OVERPAYING my taxes by thousands of dollars just a few weeks late?  Especially considering I TRIED to pay on time and the software was to blame?

This is how.

The government totally sucks you motherfucker.

What Happens AFTER You Get Your Identity Stolen

Having your identity stolen is far more damaging than just losing money. I never realized how much of a tangled web finances and real life obligations where until I had to rebuild that web from scratch. When a thief cleared out my checking account from 5 different Bank of America branches using a fake ID, it basically turned my life upside down.

I learned the hard way. There are lots of things I could have, should have, and would have done better to avoid some of this mess. But I trusted the system and I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I had no idea that the system could fail me as hard as it did. Regardless, even the most paranoid person can be a victim. No amount of looking over your shoulder can guarantee that a really motivated criminal can’t screw up your life.

The Time Drain – You Pay for Other People’s Mistakes

The amount of work that you have to do to regain and protect your identity is a lot bigger than one might think. Get a new license. Close bank accounts. Open bank accounts. Contact all credit bureaus to freeze your credit and activate fraud alerts. Contact the FTC and report ID theft. Call here, email here, drive here, sign this, mail this, certified mail that, change all your accounts everywhere for everything. Update all your passwords and *remember* them. (for me, there are hundreds of those, I’m a web geek)

I found out the hard way just how bad customer service is in the US. When dealing Corporate America your work is basically tripled. Fixing this mess takes days, not minutes or hours.

Your Tangled Financial Web

Think about this for a minute. I have numerous mortgages, insurance policies, car payments, security systems, hosting, domains, financial products, water, electricity, phones, internet, cable, exterminator, HOA fees, etc etc. The list goes on. And almost every one of those bills has it’s own bill pay system. Initially I used my Bank of America Bill-Pay to consolidate all this mess, but after a few mishaps with the system causing late payments, I moved the automation to all the external systems. It’s a huge intertangled web. All of it was connected to my checking account in one way or another.

So when you shut down your bank account, the onus is on YOU to rebuild this web. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how big the web is until you step back an look at it. It’s probably bigger than a lot of people think. Add a new driver’s license to the mix, and things can get hairy. Some systems rely on old information to authenticate you, so updating your identity can also cause problems when moving accounts or changing your bank information.

Online Account Management- Managing to Waste Much More of Your Time Because it’s Free

Now let’s just look at the online portion of your new part time job. Common sense says, use a very esoteric password that would take a computer a zillion years to crack. Okay, that’s not hard. But some systems require at least one number and some don’t let you use numbers. Some require at least one special character and some don’t let you use special characters. Some force you to use exactly 8 digits. Some are 4 digit pins that can only be numeric. Some are email addresses (and I have like 50, including some old ones that are no longer active). Some require you to change them at intervals, and you can never repeat a previous password… So now you have a pile of user names and passwords. And there is no real secure way to have these stored except in your head.

Point is, just logging in to your online account management systems for various creditors and payees takes *HOURS* to accomplish. Then their systems that bury phone numbers and force you to use awkward FAQ sections that are never even close the what you are looking for. You’re spending an inordinate amount of time bouncing around a website, growing contempt for the company you’re trying to contact. You can tell they are trying to avoid you from picking up that phone and calling a CSR because those cost money.

The Phone System is a People Trap Manned by Robots and Degenerates

Now, if you’re lucky, you finally found a phone number on the website. Try calling that number to get to an actual person, and you wade through menu after menu of the same crap the website was trying to tell you. Recorded voices trying to prevent you from talking to a real person. Asking you to type in personal information, or God forbid your frikkin account number. Now, like a good identity theft victim should, you’re already shredding all your mail and trying to prevent any bills from ever hitting your mailbox anyways by going paperless. How the hell can I key in my account number if I can’t find it on the website and I shred all evidence that an account even exists? Some of them say “No account, no problem, just type in your Social security Number!” Uhm, yeah. I’m about to start typing my SSN now that I am completely paranoid about it.

Now, you finally figure out how to get to a person. (tip, always try hitting 0 when asked to key in stuff and you don’t want to) And you’re on hold. Forever.

Customer Service? More like Call Center Quota Service…

Usually after about 5-10 minutes of navigating through the phone system (provided it didn’t hang up on your or disconnect you by “mistake”) then maybe if you’re lucky you get to a real live person. Sometimes you get a really nice, pleasant, and somewhat sharp person who knows how to listen and is motivated to help, but that’s rare. Usually it’s a degenerate who wants to put you on hold to keep the phone call as long as possible so they hit their call center’s connect time quota. Or a degenerate who wants to push you off the phone as fast as possible to hit their call center’s call volume quota.

And in the worst case, you get a used care salesman who doesn’t care about your problem and is pushing you hard to buy something, to hit their call center’s sales quota.

There is No Such Thing as Privacy when You’re Just Another Number

In all, it has been an eye opener on many fronts. Corporations that handle your money for the most part don’t give a crap about you as an individual. Smaller companies tend to have people who are more in touch. A lot of people have access to the general public’s private personal information. A lot of people you don’t know have access to almost everything about you. There is no such thing as privacy. And customer service sucks across the board for the most part.

Now, I got a lot of feedback about missing work to take care of this stuff, but you know what? I have missed work already a couple of times because of it, and I am still not done cleaning up the mess. Identity theft is the gift that keeps on giving.

Who is at Fault?

As much as some people on Digg want to point out that I am at fault for some of this, it’s hard to hear that when information about you that is non-private is all a thief needs to walk into a bank and clean out your checking account. Now, I did lose my wallet… Or it was stolen. On that part I’m not sure. It’s not like the guy used my debit card. That was canceled immediately.

I did have a high balance in my checking account, but it was an interest bearing account which was just moved out of a CD for reasons I don’t feel I need to explain to the internet. I’m not irresponsible with my money or my identity. Sure, I could have taken more paranoid measures to try and lock it up, in retrospect I wish I did. But I don’t think I need to be any more paranoid than I already am, and if a theif can walk into a bank with a fake ID and take out 40k without any problems, then no amount of credit monitoring or home security would have helped. And I didn’t know you could put alerts on your accounts, I never thought I needed to. I trusted the bank’s system. I thought those kind of alerts were a given.

I have a home security system, and a home surveillance system. I own a gun, which comes with it’s own set of problems but still, it’s another type of home security. I don’t write my passwords down anywhere. I watch people closely. I’m not paranoid, but I am not mindlessly fumbling around in life waiting to become a victim. I thought I was doing what I was supposed do, but of course, now I’m much more vigilant about such things.

But the problem still remains. As long as the system is designed so that numerous people have easy access to your personal information and your money, you will *always* be relying on somebody else to protect them.

Also FYI- I was told from a person in the fraud department that I should be getting a call from Bank of America’s executive communications people. Stay tuned, I’ll post their response to the problems I encountered. I’ll also be posting the actions Bank of America has taken since the crime occured. Bank of America has already paid the claim, so I have my money back.

Way to Spot Suspicious Activity Bank of America

I used to think identity theft was just an over-hyped gimmick to get people to pay for credit reports and monitoring. That is, until my checking account was cleared out. Turns out, most major banks are not well equipped to handle ID theft, or even your money for that matter.

Late Thursday night, I got a call from the Phoenix Police Department. The officer said they had a subject in custody who had two forms of ID with my information on it.  Then the guy asked what I looked like. At first I thought it was a prank because people were joking around the office that I missed work on a Monday because I “lost my wallet”. As the officer began rattling off my personal information, I quickly realized this was no joke.

They said they caught this guy at BestBuy trying to use somebody else’s credit card to buy a whole bunch of computers. Apparently BestBuy’s register system pops up an alert code if there is somebody trying to use a card that has been reported lost or stolen, and they call the cops. Impressive. The police caught the guy red handed. With drugs. And paraphernalia. And a bunch of people’s personal information.

At the time, I thought they got the sucker before he could do any real damage. But just to be safe, I checked with Bank of America. I was shocked to see my account was overdrawn by almost $300. Last I checked, I had almost 40k in there.

A quick review turned up 5 suspicious transactions. Two were deposits, and three were withdrawals. All five transactions occurred *inside* five different Bank of America banking centers. What amazed me most is the final two transactions. A withdrawal of 26k. And later that day, another withdrawal of 12.5k. Way to spot suspicious activity Bank of America. They handed the guy almost 40k in cash in one day.

Turns out the first two transactions where not just deposits. They were checks written to me, Christopher Hooley. The first one was $6200. The guy kept $5k and left $1200 in my account. The next one was a day later at a different center for $7500. Again, the guy kept $5k. I saw the debit slip online, and this guy’s signature wasn’t even a remote attempt to copy mine. To make matters worse, it turns out he was forging checks from another valley business, who subsequently called the police on ME!

After seeing his writing, all of the sudden it felt personal. That was MY name, written as sloppily as I had ever seen it. Now I had to find out who this guy was.

A detective from the Phoenix PD was already assigned to my case. I never actually even spoke with him. I sent the detective an email with the list of fraudulent transactions on my bank account and that was pretty much all he needed. But I had his email address, so I shot him an email asking who the thief was.

The detective told me the suspect’s name was Christopher Cantrell. An identity thief heavily involved in drugs. That’s all I needed to know to find his case on MCSO.org. And right there in front of me was his mug shot and list of charges.  I dug further on Instant Checkmate and found even more garbage on this guy.  This guy, is a total low life.

Check this out:

Christopher Cantrell

Chris Cantrell


Booked: 07-09-2008

D.O.B: 10-11-1975
Height: 5’09
Weight: 200

In Custody For:

As you can see from the picture above the huge rap sheet, he’s pretty much a spitting image of me. So it’s understandable why 5 separate bank of America branches where confused, and allowed him to make huge cash withdrawals. He has trusting eyes.

But just for conjecture’s sake, here’s a picture of me.

Chris Hooley

The moral of this story is, if you want to steal somebody’s identity, you don’t need to mess with all that online stuff. Just get somebody’s info, make a fake license with your picture on it, and walk right into any Bank of America branch and just ask them to hand you the money in cash. It doesn’t matter if you look like a doper, or even if you’re on drugs at the time. Doesn’t even matter if you know your victim’s signature. All you need is their name and address and a fake ID, and you can clean out any Bank of America account!

In my next post. I’ll explain the aftermath and how Bank of America’s service is only second to their ability to protect your money from identity thieves. Stay tuned.

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