I was not planning to write this article today. In fact, I never planned to write this article at all. I had a post waiting to go, sitting in the queue all ready for today, but the events of the past two days have caused me to preempt it and write this piece instead. I think that this "public service announcement" is more important than what I intended to post originally. I will tweak the other post for a future date.
Flash back 48 hours ago to Friday night when I arrived home around midnight to find an e-mail message from an old friend who lives in New York. He is a Vice President for the NFL and was in town for the Final Four basketball game. He had an extra ticket and wondered if I was interested in attending the next day's game. Hmmmm . . . yeah, right, like I had to think about it.
Saturday comes around and it is a beautiful day. I arrive in downtown Detroit, pay an outrageous amount for parking and trot over to the Irish bar where we had decided to meet. So far, so good—no, so far, so great. I was happy. I get to see my old friend, downtown Detroit is awash in a sea of green and white, and there is excitement in the air. Such a great day for a basketball game especially when the home team is in the Final Four.
Within a few hours everything would change.
My buddy and I arrived at the Ford Field before the start of the game. You could feel the excitement in the air. I too was excited right up to the time that I went to the restroom and realized that my wallet was gone. My credit cards, my license, my debit card, $150 cash, you name it, it's gone.
In my initial panic I think that my car keys are gone as well but then realize that they are with the parking valet, thank God for small miracles. OK, at least even if they have my home address, they don't have my keys as well. I can get home and I can get in the house. The Southfield police also reassure me that they will keep an eye on the house just to make sure that everything looks alright.
That's where my good luck ended, but I will get to that in a minute.
Needless to say the experience put a damper on the evening. Yes, my hometown team, Michigan State, won their game but all that I could think about was my wallet and whose hands it might be in—always the prosecutor, I guess. However, I stayed to watch the first game and was even excited by the result despite my apprehension.
Increasingly anxious, I decided to go home after the first game ended. I got home, got in, and reassured myself that someone would take the money, dump the wallet, and go on their merry way.
I was wrong.
I spent Sunday morning cancelling credit cards. While I was on the phone with one company, my credit union monitoring agency called to ask if I has just spent $900 at Walgreens in Livonia, Michigan. Of course, I had not. Remember, I can't leave the house because I have no money, no debit card, and no license to drive.
As it turns out, nearly $1200 had been charged to my debit card before they were able to shut it down. That being said, I have been told that the credit union will refund that amount. I'm on the hook for $50.00 at the most and will probably not even be charged that amount. Once again, thank God for small miracles.
Being a prosecutor for 22 years, one would think that I am the last person who would be victimized. I know how things go down, I've seen it all before. Quite frankly, for the most part, to say that that being a prosecutor has made me a more cautious person is an understatement at best. But guess what? Even I am not immune to fraud and deception as knowledgeable as I consider myself to be.
I'm pretty sure in hindsight that I know when the wallet was actually lifted. As soon as I got into the bar a guy sidled up to where my friend and I were standing at the bar claiming that he was a small percentage part-owner of the bar and wanting to make small talk. My friend and I laughed at him, but he was harmless right? Not so right. The bar was mobbed, he continued to hover and at one point he made his way to the other side of me, the right shoulder side where I carry my purse.
I had a hobo purse with no top flap (you see where this is going, I trust). At some point another guy approached (an accomplice I'm sure), coming up to the bar to say that I had beautiful eyes. My friend an I were laughing but as it turns out we were probably being silently laughed at that very second. I am completely convinced that at that moment as my attention was being distracted my wallet was being lifted from the hobo purse.
It all seems weird in hindsight, but remember this was a happy crowd and everybody was high fiving each other and talking to everybody around them. What a perfect place to commit a crime.
And guess what? Someone knew in advance that these type of venues are a fertile haven for unsuspecting victims. The local news warned about pickpockets at the Final Four just the other night. I only half paid attention because I didn't anticipate being downtown and even if I was, I'm a prosecutor, so no one would dare touch me—right? I guess not so right.
Listen people, if it can happen to me it can happen to you. This is your wake up call.
I have taken the day off today and will be running from venue to venue. First, the credit union to get money so I can go to the Secretary of State's Office for a new license and registration. That's only the beginning—the list goes on. More frightening is the ever-present shadow of identity theft that will now loom large for a long time to come. I am taking all of the appropriate precautions but I just want to cry.
I think these guys were out-of-town professionals because one of the early debit charges was a Hertz rental car. But I'm not quite sure because the other small charges that were incurred before the big charge (which prompted my monitoring company to call) were for $25 dollars at Bed Bath and Beyond and and a small charge at a local restaurant. My credit union monitoring company did tell me that often times a few small charges are made to test the waters before they go in for the "big bang." As the monitoring company told me, I'm lucky that the "big bang" was only $900 before we got them shut down. I'm sure that the next charge would have been for substantially more.
Be aware, readers, this can happen to you too. Once again, I could just cry—in fact I'm sure I will when I get to bed.
Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to reflect the views, opinion, or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.