On Sunday, September 24, 2017 at about 4 PM I went to my local gym to work out. I used my own padlock to secure my gym bag and my wallet in one of the gym’s lockers and started my workout. I believe it was leg day.
About halfway through the workout I got a call from the fraud department of one of my credit card companies. The woman notified me that an attempt had been made to purchase something at a CVS in Washington, DC, and that they suspected fraud. I said I’d made no such purchase and asked them how this had happened. She said that often criminals will generate credit card numbers and try them at a gas station for a penny, and if that works, they’ll go to a store and make major purchases.
A later investigator will accuse me of having said that the wallet was still in my possession when this call was made. I don’t recall whether this first caller asked me if my wallet was on me, but if she did, I would have said that it was safely locked in my gym locker. That’s what I would have assumed at the time, and again — she did not say that the physical card had been used but instead speculated that the card number itself had been re-generated by someone who never had access to the card.
I finished my workout and went back to the locker. My lock was missing. I looked around the locker room for a minute, thinking maybe I had forgotten where I locked my stuff. There was a guy standing next to my locker, and seeing that I was puzzled, said something to the effect of “Are you looking for your stuff? My locker was broken into but nothing was stolen.”
I opened the locker and found my gym bag, but my wallet was gone.
I ran to the front desk at the gym and told them what had happened. The guy at the desk didn’t seem too concerned about it. I asked if there were surveillance cameras in the gym, and he said that the entrance was covered by the front door security camera at the Rite Aid.
I walked outside of the gym and called the police to report a burglary. They told me that an officer would meet me in front of the gym in about an hour. I hung up and walked across the street to the CVS directly across from the gym. Although the first fraud caller had identified a CVS in DC as the place where the card was used, she didn’t tell me which one. It made sense that the person who stole my wallet might have used it at the closest CVS and while the police were on their way I figured it made sense to ask the store employees if they had seen anything unusual.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in the store was the huge closed-circuit television screen at the entrance. I spoke to a clerk at the store who confirmed that someone had used my card there. He said there were two men acting suspiciously, and gave me a physical description and a name. I asked if I could see the closed-circuit TV footage and he said that only the police would be permitted to view it.
I left the store and went back to the gym. I gave the gym clerk the name that the CVS clerk gave me, and he said that a member by that name had indeed checked into the gym a bit before my wallet would have been stolen. I then went outside to wait for the police.
While I was waiting I cancelled my credit cards, alerted my bank, and alerted my employer. Attempts had been made to charge slightly more than $2,000 on each of my credit cards. All but one had the sense to deny the charges.
Three officers showed up and I relayed to them the story. While I was explaining what happened, the gym clerk came outside and told us that the burglars had stolen from other branches of the gym in the city.
In the course of this conversation, the officers asked me if any of the attempted fraudulent charges had been successful. I told them that the fraud department of one of the banks told me that they had allowed the charge, but that I would not be held responsible. (I told them that I’d never charge $2,000 at a CVS, had no idea what you could buy at the store for that amount, and advised them to block those charges in the future.)
I brought the officers into the CVS, where the clerk confirmed the story and took them into a back office to review the closed-circuit video footage. I wasn’t allowed back there.
When the police came back, they said something to the effect that the criminals were careless and stupid and would very likely be caught. One officer gave me his card with the case number on it, and said I should look around for my wallet, which often is discarded near the scene of the crime. I dug through some filthy trash cans and found nothing.
I went home feeling nervous and paranoid. I remember wondering if they were going to break into my apartment, since they had my home address and a lot of my information.
Home was safe and secure, though. I immediately registered the theft with the State Department and put a freeze on my credit. I also got online with the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles and used my mom’s credit card to pay the $20 license replacement fee. The site sent me a receipt for this transaction that said the new license would arrive in the mail in about 10 business days, and attached a temporary PDF image of the license for me to use in the meantime.
And that was that, OR SO I THOUGHT. Stay tuned for PART II, wherein a bank attempts to force me to cover its losses.