Ah, yes. An exciting time in Chicago 2022. I had two terrible experiences this past summer which I would like my faithful readers to know about, and take heed.

First, I have been a customer of one of the big major banks for over 35 years. For legal purposes let’s call them Megabank. Megabank has over a dozen full-service bank offices in the greater Chicagoland area.

On May 10th of this year, a person presented a fake ID with my name on it at one Megabank branch and attempted to draw cash from my joint checking account. He was refused. On the same day he went to a second Megabank, tried it again and was again refused.

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Then, on the same day he walked into a third Megabank location in “beautiful” Calumet City, Ill., which is a far south suburb. At 2:49 p.m. he presented the fake ID and the bank teller pushed $7,500 over the counter to him. At 2:50 p.m. that day I received a voicemail saying that my account had been locked because of fraudulent activity. Now, why they knew it was a fraud at 2:50 but not before they processed the transaction at 2:49 is a mystery.

I ended up spending literally hours and days, including three 60-mile round trips to Calumet City, attempting to get the money back. Megabank didn’t want to show me any videos of the transaction, and didn’t want a police report filed. I ended up filing the police report myself because the bank didn’t consider it a robbery.

After many phone calls and visits to my local branch, I finally called one of the local TV channels who have “investigators” in their news department. I provided them with the facts, they leaned on the Megabank public relations department, and after three months the $7,500 was returned to me.

They used part of a Zoom call that I did with them on the TV news clip. “If a guy walks into a bank and pulls a gun, what does he get? $614 in loose bills, an exploding dye pack and an extended stay in an Illinois prison. I call giving my $7,500 to a fraudster a bank robbery, but Megabank doesn’t,” was my quote that they used.

I now had to dump my Megabank accounts and go to “Monsterbank.”

In the past I’ve also had trouble with Monsterbank, which my 95-year-old mother uses. I took a “Power of Attorney for Property” legal document, which had been prepared by my lawyer, signed by my mother and notarized into the local Monsterbank branch. I wanted them to put me on the account as a co-signer. They wouldn’t accept the power of attorney, and said I had to use their form, get it signed and notarized. We’re in Illinois, the document was legally clean and drafted per Illinois law, and yet they refused to accept it. This was a major irritation for me.

Changing banks is a major undertaking and it took three months with accounts open at both banks to finally get everything away from Megabank. I had to make sure I had changed all automatic payments, etc., and it took lots of time to accomplish. But eventually, it was done. Now I’m waiting to see what fresh hell Monsterbank will provide me, probably in the near future.

One of the Megabank employees who I had dealt with in the past told me the truth. Huge companies, like Mega and Monsterbank, do not care about what they consider to be small losses. The person said if it had been $75,000 or $750,000, they would care. $7,500 is probably a nanosecond of profit for a big bank. Little guys get to try to fight the system. I had to corral the TV news guys to get my money back.

And the fun doesn’t stop. This month I received a notice from my cellular company, which we’ll call Maxicell. Someone had apparently defrauded Maxicell for three top-of-the line new iPhones, about $3K worth, and they were billed to my account. The notice said my cell phone bill would triple next month. Oh yeah, I haven’t bought a new phone in three years or more.

This was an incredibly aggravating experience and is still not resolved. I have spent hours on the phone with sometimes poor telephone connections to the Philippines, trying to explain to Maxicell that I didn’t buy the phones and wasn’t going to pay for them. On one call (there have been several, with more to come) it took me over a half hour just to verify my own identity, that I am the sole owner of Slayton Solutions Ltd., and there are no other authorized humans to change my accounts or order products. Of course, I had the existing cell phone account on auto-pay so I had to stop the payment at the bank branch. I am still awaiting the resolution to this issue.

According to my local Maxicell store manager, the telephone purchases appeared to have been made over the internet or else in some kind of “at home” transaction by one of their sales agents. So Maxicell, in their nuclear-powered thirst for more revenues let some guy (it could have been a woman, but let’s face it…) get three new cell phones with no verification of identity, no credit card down payment, or really any evidence that the purchase was legit. And it went on my bill.

Personally, I believe that many of these fraud events are caused by “inside” people at the enormous companies who have all of the credentials that they need to create their scheme available at the push of a few computer buttons. With thousands of employees, are they all honest? Really?

These battles have been time consuming and nerve wracking. When your own bank gives away your money, who can you trust? Where can you keep your dollars, under the mattress? Coffee can in back yard? Gold bars? Shotgun shells?

Fraud is rampant in our world, and the internet and smartphones make it just that much easier for dishonest people to prey on those of us who follow the rules.

Why do I bring this to your attention? I strongly suggest that someone in your office carefully scrutinize all “to be paid” invoices to see if there’s any funny stuff. And as I have seen from personal experience the thieves could well be high level employees. The person who really cares about the money needs to check the accounts. Also, please inspect your personal accounts for any shenanigans. And you have to do this every month; I’m checking my bank accounts every day since all this started.

I will not bore you with the many times in my 42 years in this business that I have seen fraud and theft be detected. You can quote me on this: If there is something worth stealing, someone will try to steal it. In my cases above it is money and likely my credit rating scores. In your case it could be equipment that “gets legs” and disappears from trucks or jobsites, company credit cards used for personal purposes, the list can go on and on. I sold a customer a fusion splicer and provided them with two days of training. The splicer ($2,000) was stolen, probably by an employee, the first night.

I’m not sure what happened to honesty and “Thou shall not steal.” Be aware that all of your accounts, be they business or personal, may be targets for identity theft scams. And while anyone can be a target, anyone can be the criminal, inside or outside your business.

You have been warned and I hope these troubles don’t come to you; however, I would bet that a number of my readers have had similar problems.

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