A weekend a few years ago was typical for me. Nothing major was scheduled--just a chance to relax and reload for the week ahead in my comfortable and secure surroundings which I liked to call 'Shangri-la;
' peace and quiet were plentiful.
Monday morning was just the opposite. About 10 AM my credit union called because some unknown person was trying to cash two checks I had supposedly written. I had never heard of this individual, and the check numbers were higher than the series that I was currently using. I advised the supervisor who called that the checks were apparently stolen and that they should confiscate the checks and detain the individual for theft; unfortunately he had already departed, taking the checks with him.
I stopped payment on those checks and went home to check the file folder on my desk where I keep the blanks for my computer check-writing program. Two different batches, totaling 12 check blanks, had been stolen from the middle and back of the folder. I called the credit union and told them to stop payment on all 12 checks. In the meantime, the individual who had tried to cash the checks earlier had arrived at another credit union office and was trying again. Fortunately, my stop payment order was already in the computer but he grabbed the checks and ran out of the office again.
Note: Photo is not the actual thief who stole my checks
There were several things that were to my advantage. First, the criminal attempted to cash the checks with a teller who lived on the same block as he did. Dumb move: She recognized him and knew his name and address. A check he had successfully cashed at the same office while I was out of town contained a security fingerprint, and they had a good picture of him on the security videotape. I also filled out a police report the first day, but it was a few weeks later before any arrests were made.
A week after the criminal was identified I received a call from a check cashing company that had cashed one of my checks for over $900. It appears that the thief had a woman accomplice, and I was pleased to learn that she also provided a security fingerprint on the check and had her photo taken as part of the identification process. Both perpetrators had prior arrests for similar crimes.
The biggest challenge was getting the police or sheriff to begin the investigation and make some arrests. While the check cashing company manager and I were both ready to testify, the final result was a plea bargain with no jail time. I never learned who actually removed the check blanks from my files.
One of the biggest changes in my life was a sudden awareness of my need for more security.
I live alone and there are people who need to enter my home periodically to help with my care. That presents a risk factor that is unknown to the general population.
I really thought my home was a safe haven. My front door has a security code that operates the electric door opener. I change it whenever an attendant leaves for good, and only give it to my PCAs, family members, or friends who visit for extended periods. Locks are in place that prevent sliding doors and windows from opening more than a few inches.
My house has security stickers on the windows that were left over from the previous owners. I don't know if they ever had an alarm system installed, but I am seriously considering it. A locksmith changed all of my door locks. I don't think there are any spare keys in circulation, but I don't intend to find out the hard way--again.
A missing garage door opener remote control, which I originally thought might have something to do with the theft of my checks, has been found. It has also been hidden away so it will not be a temptation to somebody in the future.
My garage door opener code has been changed, since it was probably the original code dating from when it was manufactured. There are thieves who drive through neighborhoods with multiple garage door remote controls to determine who has been lazy enough to neglect changing their original security codes. They then return under cover of darkness to steal what they can.
My desktop file system, which needs to be accessible to me, is continually being sanitized by removal of all the financial documents that could be used to steal my identity or create more fiscal havoc. The major credit reporting companies are also being queried periodically to assure that no new accounts have been opened in my name; that is a free service that can be done annually.
I now do more electronic banking and bill-paying. A paper shredder is used to shred the dozens of loan offers, credit card applications and financial documents I receive each month.
I hope I have accomplished my goal of removing the temptations from my surroundings and making my life more secure in the process. It will probably be much longer before I am able to fall asleep without hearing strange noises outside the house or in the garage, as I still don't know who betrayed my trust and faith in the honesty of those who provide my care.
When was the last time you reviewed your security measures and personal belongings through the viewpoint of a stranger who might be in your house with, or without, your knowledge? If it's been a while, now might be a good time to take a look around.
I just wish I’d done it a little sooner.
© 2012 Michael Collins