Friday, May 5, 2006

Pandora's Box

Earlier this week I logged into our online banking account, as I often do, to check the balances and see what had cleared. There were two pending charges from a mortgage-related company totaling over $800. I immediately emailed D to ask if he knew what they were; we did have our house reappraised for insurance purposes a while back and generally D takes care of that type of thing. He didn’t know either and did a search based on the little information we had. He called the bank and they couldn’t do anything until the charge cleared (which seemed ridiculous, isn’t the whole point to prevent the fraudulent charge if you know about before you get your money taken?). D called the company that posted the charges and got the voicemail of the “account manager”. Ummmm, we don’t have an account with you people, how can we have an account manager? He also emailed the customer service address from the website. We got a response via email the next morning indicating they also had the charges flagged as possibly being fraudulent because they were initiated from out of the country. Neither charge made it through the pending phase to clear, I presume because the mortgage company refused it on their end. Seriously, if you got your hands on a valid debit card number, wouldn’t you use it to buy bling, or expensive shoes, or airline tickets to Fiji?

Anyway, the bank told us it was MY debit card number that was used. Yes, I buy stuff online all the time, from reputable companies that have secure sites, but I live by my debit card, so the number has got to be all over the internet by now, I’ve just never had it stolen before. We canceled both our debit cards, which turned out to be a royal hassle, even checks weren’t accepted by companies I do business with all the time. Hopefully we’ll have the new cards by Monday.

My point in telling you all this, and I know it sounds cliché, is I feel so violated. And ashamed. I feel ashamed because I was violated. Hmmm, does this sound familiar? The eloquent Avonlea Spring wrote a post recently titled Shame where she asks about an antidote. I wish I knew how to counteract this instinctual behavior, but alas, I believe the way my brain works was literally changed by what I endured. I wrote about this in March, wherein I referenced this article, as well as a piece from the April 2006 Discover magazine by Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel. I’m not saying there is no hope for change, just that the way in which change happens might not be the way we think it does.

The presence of my husband in my life, along with my friends, has literally been my salvation. Yet, despite the very good life and the support system I have, it doesn’t take much to send me into a depression or panic spiral that takes several days to unwind from. An unexpected phone call from my mother, a trip to the vet and the aforementioned bank hassles were enough to write off much of this past week.

Meeting D enabled me to open Pandora’s box and deal with the misfortunes and sorrow that were released. The first time I was in control of the raising of the lid; now it seems like it happens on its own. Every time the box gets opened, even a tiny bit, more sadness and hurt comes out, like there is a never-ending supply. Like Pandora, I’d like to believe I keep shutting the box in time to keep the one thing it contained that I wanted to keep: hope.

Pandora by John William Waterhouse, 1896


  1. I recently went through something similar in that a check I had written was stolen and written for a far larger amount. We had to change our account # at our bank, which meant new checks and new debit cards. It is all a big hassle and so frustrating!

  2. Donna, I hope next week is better. I can completely understand why these triggers have been making you feel raw. Glad you and the mortgage company both caught this before it got worse.

  3. Just before we got married last year, Greg's bank contacted him regarding charges for 2 NSF checks written on his account for over $10K! The police got involved and it turned out that there were these people who were stealing mail from Canada Post mailboxes. They got a hold of new checks that were in the mail for him, and tried cashing them on the East Coast. A week later, we saw this scam on the news.
    You really can't be too careful, but on the other hand, desperate people will use desperate measures, and they don't even waste one thought on the person they are violating. It's the innocent person who has to deal with all the clean-up.

  4. Oh Donna, I really think it's too hard to go through life not ever opening the box. We're bound to have sadness and hurt (and I'm so sorry that you seem to have weathered more than your share); I too wish we didn't feel ashamed of it. You didn't do anything wrong. And thank g-d you do have D and your friends to help see you through.

    BTW, that's a gorgeous painting.

  5. I've had two attempts at fraud on my business accounts in the last year. The first time, I remember feeling the violation that you describe here. I was really scared and upset... the asshole tried to pass a fake check for more than $5K... he'd copied my signature and everything. It was frightening and I felt paranoid for weeks aftwards. It was stopped because the idiot took the check to a bank, tried to cash it in person and the teller noticed the spelling on the check was wrong. He'd mispelled the word 'design' -- I attribute it to him probably being seriously strung out on something. His bad, my good.

    Anyway... this is an interesting post. I am conscious of how my dysfunctional past affects me on a daily basis too, especially in my relationships. It's very hard. Somehow the monkey always feels like it's on your back.

    I wish I had a solution or at least some half-decent assvice for you. But I don't. Just that you are not alone, my friend. That's the one thing that has always made it better for me, when on top of the abuse and the violations, those things in turn isolated me from the rest of the world, as they made me 'not normal.' So know that I am thinking of you and you're definitely not walking this road alone. Big hugs.

  6. I know how that feels. I had an undocumented worker steal my SS#. How did I find out? The IRS sent me a bill for back taxes from my job at Taco Bell. In Austin, Texas. When I was going to grad school and waitressing, in NJ. THREE years of taxes, thousands of dollars. After much begging of Federal agencies, a very nice Secret Service officer cleared it up for me. I also have an unpaid pager bill for $177 from Texas as well. That is still on my credit report - 5 years later.

  7. ugh, sorry about the fiasco. what a pain. I recently had to close all my bank accounts, reorder checks and debit cards, blah, blah, blah to avoid fraud (since one of my previous mortgage broker's records had been stolen). this internet stuff & information age sure has it's upsides and downsides.

    awesome art posted, by the way. :)

  8. the link with shame is very interesting. Shame is of course not about pandora but about adam and eve (of course, I am ignoring multiple other belief systems here). They were made to feel shame because they acquired the knowledge of original sin, and I suppose also because they didn't trust the powers that be to look after them.

    I think the shame that I feel comes from the embarassment that others feel about my situation. They don't know how to deal with it, and so I feel ashamed that I have embarassed them. It's all quite a mess, isn't it.

    I'm sorry you got ripped off. It's an awful feeling.

  9. Donna, I'm sorry we've shared yet another violation, that happened to me a few years ago, now I only use a credit card online.

    You need to make sure that your computer is secured with a firewall program and that there are no trojan horses on your computer too.

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