Banking Story: It Fell off a Truck, Honest—You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

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Most of us at this point are smart enough to sniff out a scam when it crosses our doorstep. It arrives as an email—a person we know is in Nigeria and his wallet was stolen and please send money so he can get home right away and here is the number to call. Another is a phone call that begins, “This is your credit card company. Your credit is fine, but you are now eligible to—” Click.

Yesterday, however, I got one in the mail. This is appropriate because this seemed to be an old school scam, and the U.S. Mail is old school. The letter comes from a vice president of a bank. I happen to have a checking account at this bank.

Dear Daniel Rattiner:

We’re reaching out to you to inform you of a recent incident involving your account information.

On December 4, Capital One learned that some bank documents that were intended to be destroyed were accidentally displaced from our shredding vendor’s truck as it left the East Hampton branch that day. Shortly after, our employees worked to recover the documents that were displaced from the truck. Information about your account may have been contained in the documents that were being transported by the vendor…”

This is the old Fell off the Back of the Truck scam. “Hey fella, got a hot diamond necklace here. Just 200 bucks. Fell off the back of a truck.” It’s that kind of scam.

Or is this a scam? The letter was signed by Gregory Bryant, who is Vice President, Branch and Café Operations. That word “café” rang a bell. During the Super Bowl, Capital One ran this commercial that declares they are becoming hip. No longer are their branch lobbies to be called branch lobbies. They are to be called banking cafés. On the screen was something that looks like Starbucks. There is banking going on, but there is a bar where drinks are being served, and there is music playing in the background, and everybody is having just such a very good time. This is a hint that this “scam” might actually be something authentic.

The letter continues on with an effusive apology and a statement that they are taking steps and adding precautions to prevent anything similar from happening in the future.

Hmm. I wondered, what they are doing to see to it that it will never happen again? Having a second truck driving behind the first truck?

To get the answer, I put a call into Mr. Bryant, hoping he might interrupt his dance routine long enough to take my call. However, the number given as being his got me into the banking area fairly low on the corporate telephone pole, and I had to swim upstream for a while. Finally, I got to ask the question to someone who said they did not know anything about this, who transferred me to a woman at a call center in Delaware, who transferred me to my local branch on Newtown Lane here in East Hampton, which at the present time has put me on hold.

Well, I shall continue writing. I note that the letter is dated February 7 and it arrived here in the mail on February 21, so this does not show much in the way of urgency. Meanwhile, the letter continues on with an offer. I am eligible for two years free credit monitoring from a company called myTrueIdentity.

I should call them and give them a 12-letter activation code that they provided in the next paragraph—which I most certainly am not going to reveal to you, dear reader—followed by three simple steps to receive my three-level credit monitoring service online within minutes. If I don’t have internet, the letter says I can also sign up by calling a particular phone number and then giving a six-digit telephone pass code that’s in my letter, which I am also not going to give you.

I have been on hold now for 18 minutes. Maybe crowds of people getting this letter are calling in. Maybe I ought to drive down there and see what’s up. Go by the back entrance so I can go through their dumpster. I’ll let you know.

Well, I went down to the bank branch with the letter. This is not a scam. I closed my account and opened a new one elsewhere. Maybe next time the somebody on the truck will remember to shut the hatch door.

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