That’s how it feels and technically I guess I have been. I logged into my bank account Saturday and found my account had been emptied by a cheque issued the previous day. A cheque that I’d never written, a cheque that I’d never issued and a cheque that was still blank within my cheque book. I could feel the blood drain away from my face, my stomach emptying and then my hands shaking. This was a LOT of money (well for me anyway) and it was gone.

I phoned my bank and found out two things. Branches don’t open on Saturday and the fraudulent claims department doesn’t work weekends. If your going to defraud a bank do it on a Friday. Wait until Monday…and don’t worry was the advice over the phone!

So Monday came and I got on the phone again. The cheque was processed at the Byres road branch and they definitely had one of my cheques so it was of to the branch to get to the bottom of where my money had gone. I turned up, said my piece, showed them my cheque book with supposedly issued cheque still in the book and they went to investigate. 20 mins later they came back with ‘my’ cheque.

The cheque had my account number and sort code and also my branch details. It also had my name but this was slightly different than my actual account name. It also wasn’t my signature and also was signed with my middle initial and surname, something I never do. Worse was the cheque was faded compared to the originals in my book and also you could see old ink underneath the bank branch details. It was clearly a counterfeit cheque.

Thankfully the branch seem to be accepting of this too. They’ve closed my account, set-up a new one and been very helpful with sorting out access to money over the coming days and moving all the direct debits. But then they should be, no? They are the ones that have been defrauded, not me. Yet it’s me that doesn’t have my money refunded – that has to wait for the fraud investigation team which could take a few weeks. While this morning I felt OK with this as the day has moved on it has irritated me more and more. I’m also getting advice from some that I should involve the police rather than let the bank carry out an internal investigation but I’m not sure what if anything this would achieve apart from wasting their valuable time. I guess I would look at this option as a last resort if the bank started getting difficult.

I’m also feeling…vulnerable. How did someone get my details? Has there been mail intercepted? Is my internet access compromised? Has someone used an old cheque that I’ve issued to help mock up the counterfeit? It happened in Glasgow – could it be someone I know? How did they know how much to write the cheque for – coincidence or someone within the bank (somewhere) providing information? Is it someone I’ve used the account card recently? Paranoia but I really feel compromised by this. I’m usually very careful, shredding all mail with name’s and also old bank details. My internet security I thought was always pretty good although I don’t think anyone can be 100% secure or sure that they aren’t compromised in some way.

I also feel that there were suspicious eye’s at the bank today and that’s why the fraud team will investigate and may take some time. Again it could be in my head but that’s how I feel and it will be difficult to shake this.

So, lessons learned? Be vigilant. Cheque your accounts regularly and make sure you can account for every transaction. If you use internet banking then make sure your machine is clear of spyware and I would also suggest using a strong password that you change regularly, even once a month to reduce the risk of it being compromised. I would also advise against accessing your account at work as you never know what your system administrator is tracking. Get a shredder and use it! If in a restaurant the waiter wants to take your card away ask him to bring the machine to you and if that isn’t possible insist that you go with the card – cloning of cards is on the increase.

Finally, and probably applies to me most. Never get arrogant about protecting your identity or accounts. I always thought I did well in protecting these things (and that why I’m writing all this on a public blog – doh!) but today has been a real wake up call. Fraud happens and there’s no telling who will be next.

Spanning Sync

The Spanning Sync public beta is now available again after the servers took a pasting midweek. First impressions are mixed. First sync took a few minutes but sync’s after that seem to be quite fast. However it seems to be one way at the moment. Syncs from iCal to Google are working but not from Google to iCal. Still, early days and teething troubles are expected.

I should probably have mentioned that this applies to Mac iCal users only and is an app for syncing Google to iCal calendars.