One Friday evening recently I went on my computer for the daily ritual of reading my email which I always look forward to. (My daughter Ingrid says this activity releases endorphins in our bodies which of course give us a high.) But no endorphins this evening. The first message to greet me was from Click/Pay saying it had rejected the monthly payment of carrying charges for my co-op apartment, a transaction that is dealt with by our Management Office. I should have known something was wrong with my bank checking account when the day before I had tried to withdraw some money from a neighborhood bank, not my bank but it had never rejected my withdrawals before. But now it was Friday evening, our Management Office was closed until the following Monday. I immediately thought someone had gotten into my account and withdrawn all the money! I had heard many times of this happening to others, but here it was now happening to me. I was in a state of panic, and immediately called my daughter Ingrid in New Jersey, who agreed with my deduction, but assured me the bank would restore all the money. My neighborhood Chase branch was open only a few hours on Saturdays, and since the bank would make good and Ingrid was coming in Tuesday anyway to take me to a doctor’s appointment, it was decided I could wait. I was doubly reassured when my granddaughter Sarah said this had happened to her and that the bank had restored all the money. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the mail I had received over a week before from Chase saying it was closing down my account! I had, however, ignored the notice since several weeks before Chase had sent me a letter saying they were shutting down my Amazon card for lack of use but this was quickly followed by another notice saying to ignore the previous notice. I had never paid much attention to my accounts, not even checking my monthly statements, and so when I glanced at the most recent notice, I thought it referred to the last one. I had been blasé all
these year about my bank and credit cards; this will teach me!
Tuesday Ingrid took me to the nearest Chase bank which is on 125th Street and B’way. I was reminded why I avoid going there. Four lane traffic on this mammoth street and the traffic light changes to red when one is only midway. Ingrid literally stood there with her hand raised to halt the cars so that I could make it across with my walker! At the entrance of this miniature branch, a bank clerk saw us immediately and when delving into my account, came up with a copy of a check that I had sent to my accountant for $350. The check was signed by me, but the accountant’s name and the amount had been whited out and a woman’s name written in and the amount changed to $7,590! The Chase branch where she tried to cash it must have become suspicious and kept it, probably saying they would call her. The clerk did not know at which Chase branch she tried to cash it. It was now almost 4:00PM and we were told to get in line so we wouldn’t forfeit our place, so Ingrid left me there sitting on my walker’s seat while she
went to the 26th Street Precinct on the next block to report what was now termed “attempted grand larceny.” She returned in about
a half hour saying the police informed her that what’s been happening lately in all the boroughs is “fishing.” A thief gets a
fishing line, attaches something sticky (like a glue trap meant for mice!) at the end with which he fishes out mail from the mail box, looking for envelopes that likely contain checks. If the fisherman gets lucky, the check is “washed,” and a new payee’s name is inserted, along with, in my case, a boosted dollar amount. The altered check is then taken to the bank to cash. We spent at least two hours with the bank clerk, Bianca, trying to put the pieces together, changing my bank account number, and attempting to notify Social Security and the NYState Pension System. Dealing with all of this was too much for my brain which shut down completely; I could never have dealt with it without my daughter. I more or less just sat back while Ingrid talked with the bank clerk
who was extremely helpful, giving us the information we needed when getting in touch with the organizations and companies, and
of course, the Co-op’s Management Office, to give them my new bank account number. When she asked if she could get me at such and such a number, it turned out to be incorrect, because the message said the phone was disconnected. So that’s the number the bank must have called when trying to get in touch with the person who tried to cash the check, and that’s why the bank closed down my account. We came home during rush hour with Ingrid once again stopping traffic on 125th St. to walk me across and then made more phone calls with long waits to clear up the problems. We both welcomed mightily having a glass of wine. It was especially hard to reach Social Security. That evening four policemen came to my apartment. Four policemen just for “attempted grand larceny?” If the thief had actually gotten the money, would that have brought the whole 26th Precinct to my door? They too told us about the Fishing that was going on. The following evening came two detectives; I was getting good at recounting my story. They took a photo of the bogus check saying that they would trace the Chase bank branch where the thief tried to cash the check. Evidently this has become quite a racket.
Several days later a policewoman called me to say she was giving a talk about senior safety at MRHS, our social services, the following day; she had read the report of my case, adding she had
heard about Fishing going on in some of the other boroughs, but mine was the first she heard about it happening here. She hoped to get a good audience. She needn’t have worried; the meeting room
was overflowing with seniors. She gave an excellent speech, during which I recounted once again my experience, about the precautions we should take and then introduced two policemen who have been patrolling this area for the past two years because of increased crime against seniors. We each received a nice shopping bag with a night scene of the lower Manhattan sky line and the words Senior Safe NYC in bold letters and which contained pamphlets, a whole one devoted only to Fishing, plus a pen whose ink cannot be erased and a bracelet with a gadget which
when pulled emits a deafening sound, hopefully scaring away the possible assailant. I like to think that this program was the result of my Fishing experience, but the police told me they go around to lots of places giving such talks. So where would it be safe to mail? Why at the post office itself. Since I can’t get to it, I’m opting for a mail box on our premises which is diagonally across from our guard booth. Surely no thief would dare, but then again, thieves are usually one step ahead of the rest of us!
It took my daughter and me a month to deal with all the contacts; I have a thick bank folder of papers, a copy of the bogus check, and the calling cards for Bianca and a detective. So the next time you hear about fishing in NYC , you’ll know it will not be in the Hudson River!