i'm so sorry this happened to you.


ok, so maybe it is a story worth telling.

but where should i start? how about back in my dante class. dante said the worst sinners of all were those who committed fraud. "why fraud?" someone asked. "even worse than rape and murder?" father rowan said yes, even worse than rape and murder. because in a fraudulent society, where the individual distrusts everyone, rape and murder wouldn't even be possible. everyone would just live extraordinarily isolated lives and have nothing to do with one another.

i didn't buy it at first. but now that i've been a victim of fraud, i agree. the guy who stole my entire savings account ($15,680) can go to the worst part of the inferno and stay there for all eternity.

you're probably wondering, how did a broke joker like me even save $15,680? it wasn't hard. it was just time consuming, and it took a lot of scrimping and saving, foregoing dinner some nights, not turning on the heat when it was cold. i had a $10 bus pass, i paid $615 in rent, i didn't have kids, i didn't date, i'd already paid off my student loans. what was i even saving for? i don't know, just to do it? i figured i'd need surgery for something at some point, and the anesthesia alone would be in the thousands. i figured i'd get married, and it'd be something for the honeymoon. maybe a down payment on a house. maybe i'd finally have a car in my name. maybe i'd go back to school, and then i'd have enough for a semester.

when i clearly saw none of that was gonna happen, i said fuck it. i'd spend the money on traveling. i'd quit my job, join the peace corps, and i'd have a good enough chunk of change to carry me through financial emergencies, small trips here and there. $15,000, $16,000, $17,000. how much was enough? how much did i need before i could quit my job and live out the last days of my youth? i'd been good for so long. it was time for a change. it was time to be reckless.

i quit my job. i threw a christmas party for my family. i went to manila. i went to bangkok. and then on february 1, i checked my chase online bank account. $0.00. zero. haha. you're fucking kidding me, right? the transaction was still pending. $15,680 going to somebody named william yong's bank of america bank account. surely my bank wouldn't be stupid enough to transfer my entire account, which i've had with them for ten years (back when they were washington mutual), to some fool named william yong. this is clearly a mistake, and they'll fix it immediately. right? right?

i flew back to manila, and i called chase immediately. "let me transfer you to our wire department," they said. "let me transfer you to our fraud department," they said. "let me put you on hold for just a minute," they said. clearly, nobody knew what the fuck was going on. their call centers are spread out all over the world, and at some point, i spoke with a representative working in manila. he could've been next door to me for all i knew. one rep said i'd need a notarized affidavit. another said a notary was unnecessary. one said i should close my account immediately. another said they'd just send me a new debit card. all the while, i'd get transferred from one department to the next, the next rep more clueless than the last. still, i put up with it. what choice did i have? this was all my money. everything. and i was in a foreign country burning international minutes, using a shoddy magic jack that cut out every now and then.

"you should fly back to the states," my aunt said. i didn't want to. i was supposed to stay in the philippines forever, marry a beautiful brown-skinned girl and have ten daughters. i was gonna live in a ramshackle house in the provinces, and i'd learn to love tabo-tabo.

but i didn't. i flew back. i learned that the hacker got into my gmail account, and set it up so that any emails including the word "chase" would go directly to my trash. he contacted at&t and had all my voicemails go to some number he set up, most likely a prepaid burner. at&t refused to release any of my information or records to chase without a subpoena. chase said they asked bank of america to return the money, but bank of america cited "insufficient funds," and the money couldn't be returned. chase said they needed a statement from at&t saying that my phone was set to call forwarding the day the transaction occurred. again, at&t said they needed that subpoena.

in other words, i have to prove i was robbed.

i filed a case at the sheriff's department. the officer more or less shrugged his shoulders, and said, "depending on our workload, we may get to it." it sounded like they weren't even going to investigate. the chase rep at my local branch said, "because it was a wire transfer, once it leaves chase, there's really nothing we can do at that point." the bank of america rep at my local branch said, "this might not even be his real name. we don't even have his account number." i emailed my boss. i called my lawyer friend. i posted the story on reddit.

all i can do now is try to convince myself it was just a number. a large number, yes, but still, just a number. and what was i going to do with it, anyway? buy an ipad? visit france? i'm probably better off without it. just another test of character, of my patience. an expensive lesson in how to (yet again) deal with grave disappointment.

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