Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This week, I'm feeling a little violated

We got a call on Monday from our bank's anti-fraud department asking if we'd authorized a transaction at an ATM in Brazil. Uh, no. We still don't really know how our card information was stolen, but it was and it's really disturbing. I always hear and read about things like this happening to people - some high-tech thief installs a copying device at ATM machines and steals the card information from unsuspecting folks trying to take cash out, etc., etc. But, until now, I'd never been personally affected by such a scheme. We were really lucky that it wasn't a high-dollar transaction and that our bank alerted us and canceled the card before more damage could be done, but it still makes me feel absolutely violated. It also makes me rethink how we spend money and our dependence on our bankcard - I know that I'll be much more cautious and aware of who handles my card now and where we use it, even if I've always felt I was being cautious enough.

But, as if dealing with stolen credit cards isn't enough for a Monday, not long after hearing from the anti-fraud department, I found myself witness to what I've now come to understand was the SECOND robbery of an apartment in my building in a month. It was the middle of the day and a thunderous banging sounded in the stairwell just below my apartment. At first, I thought the neighbors were doing travaux again, but when the floorboards and walls of our apartment started shaking with each blow, I opened the front door to see what the heck was going on. Just as my door swung open, a woman was running up the stairs for the elevator; I know I startled her, but she nervously said bonjour and told me they were looking for someone as she let herself into the elevator and descended. I really didn't know what to think at this point, but I knew she wasn't alone because I had heard someone else running down the stairs. What's ridiculous is that I had no clue if this woman was one of our neighbors or just some strange person running through our building. It's just not common here to get to know your neighbors, to know when they're in our out and to look after things while they're gone like you do back in suburban America.

Still, the sound I had heard and the frantic demeanor of the woman made me uneasy, so I went downstairs to see if there was anything amiss. I saw bits of wood on the floor as I turned the corner of the staircase, and realized soon after that the door to the apartment below had been completely broken into. I'm not sure if a tool was used or someone kicked it in, but however they did it, they found their way past a big, heavy French-style door and into the empty apartment of an unsuspecting neighbor. I immediately called Gui to find out what I should do, but both of us were still really confused with the scenario. Perhaps it was a lover's quarrel, or maybe someone forgot their keys and was mad. Maybe that lady was our neighbor and she was off looking for whoever had damaged her door. We just didn't know what to think. I knocked on the door of the only neighbor I do know to get some advice, but she didn't answer. A couple of hours later, as more people returned from work and noticed the broken door, I went downstairs to give my account of what happened. Another neighbor had seen a man running downstairs the same time I saw the woman, but he didn't do anything, either because, like me, he had no idea what was going on.

What really disturbs me about this whole situation, though, is what I discovered today. I came home to find a sign on our building's front door warning us that someone in our building was not only burglarized this past Monday, but three Mondays ago as well (a different neighbor), yet no one bothered to tell us about the first incident until now. I know for a fact that if I had been informed of the previous burglary when I heard the sound coming from below my apartment, I would not have hesitated to call the police or even try to catch someone in the act. Not that I would have gone all "Texas-neighborhood-watch" on them (at least not in France), but maybe I could have done something! All I know is that I hope that whoever's making their robbery rounds in our building has gotten what they came for and won't be coming back again. I've never hesitated to defend myself and property and I don't imagine I'd pause to reflect should someone come and try to bang down my door.

6 comments:

Jennie said...

Yikes, that's scary! I hope the burglaries stop. Does your building have a locked entrance? I probably wouldn't know what to do either if that happened here. I don't really know my neighbors either. I'd only recognize 2 or 3 of them.

Luckily no one's ever stolen my card, but I did have someone recently use my Paypal account. I was able to stop the transaction from going through, but it still left me wondering how in the world someone hacked into it and not feeling very safe about my bank account...

Candy said...

OMG! Mom's going to book you and Gui on the next flight out to the states after she reads this! be careful and don't hesitate to sleep with a golf club next to your bedside like i do! :) love you!

Josephine said...

That's right Candy! Sarah, you and Gui get back here right now! Seriously, Sarah, please do not try to intervene but rather, call the PO-lice. Maybe this is a good time to get to know your neighbors by creating a "Catch a Thief" neighborhood watch. Please, please be careful!

Love, mom

Zhu said...

For the credit card charge in Brazil... I swear it wasn't me! :D Make sure the bank pays you back and follow up - you know French bank.

The burglary story is pretty scary. I wouldn't like that in my building... I know what you mean by not knowing your neighbors, but may it's a chance to get to know them, so that at least if something else happens, people notice it!

Animesh said...

holy crap!!!

Leesa said...

Holy cow!! That sounds so freaky!! We get guys coming by trying to buzz into our apt. stairwell to pass out junk mail.. But, Alex has warned me NOT to let anyone I don't know in because people come in and check out the place... it's really weird..... I don't trust anyone... I was just reading the other day how Jasmin was using her IPhone on the metro and it was stolen (grabbed) right out of her hands!!
That's terrible about the bank account info, too... I had something charged to my card years ago in Italy- a $1500 charge in addition to a tie I bought from a street vendor. It was those card swipe things (the ones that don't really exist anymore). In Budapest... a street vendor had one and it gave me the creeps to think that someone can steal your credit card info and swipe the card again to rip you off...
Take care, Leesa