My “recently closed mortgage”


I received an odd postcard about “your recently closed mortgage.” This was interesting because I didn’t have a “recently closed mortgage.” Well, there was the one I did back in 2000.

The postcard looked very much like the image shown here except for some small details. Mine mentioned that the mortgage was “recorded on August 16, 2021.” But my version did not mention any specific financial institution. Same phone number, though.

Heartland Bank noted that it “did not sell your personal information.” Also, “We would not send confidential account information on a postcard. Account information will always be mailed in a sealed envelope with our logo, sent via an encrypted email, or we will call you directly.”

Wauna Credit Union also clarifies the situation. “Often times, scammers will pull what’s called the ‘phantom help’ maneuver, where they’ll encourage you to reduce or even stop your mortgage payments while they work to lessen your costs (for a moderate fee, of course). Unfortunately, by the time you realize you’re being taken advantage of, the phantom helper is long gone.”

My card also has this same H.W.C. text. “If you look reeeeeeally closely in the bottom right-hand corner of the examples we’ve provided, you’ll see an ‘All information provided by H.W.C.’ and a ‘Not affiliated with…’ disclosure. Problem is you can grow old searching for information about H.W.C. and come back with nothing solid.”

Wauna makes the calls

I thought to call the number, but my wife thought I ought not. Fortunately, Wauna was willing. “In fact, we tried all the numbers we were able to find. Some connect to a live person, others are recordings, and one dialed directly to an automated system. Regardless of which number, we were eventually probed for personal information. Funny enough, these fraudsters refuse to give out any information about themselves, or even the actual company they are working with.”

American Southwest Credit Union, First Guaranty Bank, and First Federal  Savings Bank have been among the entities misrepresented, going back at least since December 2018.

In fact, the action is SO pervasive, here’s a generic denial letter. This discussion expressed the outrage of a victim. “How in the world is this even legal? Shame on them, shame on the government for letting this happen, shame on the post office for delivering it knowing fully well it’s S-C-A-M!! SCAM SCAM SCAM!!”

Someone responded: “The government can’t stop these, and the post office can’t legally discard your mail. Yes, it’s a scam, but the only thing you can do about it is throw it away.” So I have. Burned it, actually.

Kübler-Ross and IMPOTUS defeat

 Remembering RBG

My daughter keeps track of GOP tropes. This design is available on sweatshirts.

You know, this political season has made me exhausted. I hoped the election would settle things, though I had my doubts.

Sure enough, Attorney General Barr is acting like IMPOTUS’ personal attorney. The future ex-President removes the scientist from overseeing a key climate assessment report. The grift continues. He seems to be engaged in a scorched earth policy. If he doesn’t concede, the GSA head won’t release the mechanism for Joe Biden to be a part of an orderly transition.

But it’s more than that. The vitriol is still strong. And, as people saw on my Facebook feed that Saturday, some guy came around to attack me personally for being pleased that Biden had won. It wasn’t some random guy either, but a fellow who had been my next-door neighbor when I was growing up in Binghamton, NY. Let’s call him Greg because that’s his name.

Greg had been around trolling me in the past. But I had found him useful. It’s important, I think, to understand how others think. This time, he was hyper-critical and fairly nasty at that. He said that I didn’t vote for the man because IMPOTUS had hurt my feelings?

Well, no, I objected to him trying to wreck the very fabric of the country: the postal service, the Census, the CDC, the Justice Department (see above), the EPA, etc, etc, etc.

Greg also seemed to be offended because I was a fool not to recognize that I’m financially better off under the regime. He never used the term directly. But I sensed that he was suggesting that since black people’s unemployment was down, pre-pandemic, I was oblivious to the regime’s “greatness.”

cf RBG’s death

Here’s the thing. I don’t agree with the premise. The tax cut helped the rich far more than regular folks. But even if I had concurred, I still thought his policies, toward COVID, immigration, the environment, and so much more, plus his constant lying, were disqualifying attributes. But why pick on me? There were plenty of people who are happy that the reign of error was over.

Then I saw Remembering RBG: A Nation Ugly Cries with Desi Lydic. It was a special program from The Daily Show folks. Desi was going through the five stages of grief as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Although, instead of acceptance, the fifth stage is action. Not incidentally, Elizabeth Warren, as usual, offered wise counsel.

So Greg, I recognize, was grieving. He dumped on me because he sort of knew me, though I haven’t seen him in a half-century. I get it.

In my recollection, when Hillary lost in 2016, the reaction was mostly utter shock and depression, not rage. As my teenage daughter noted, in 2016, we were saying, “That can’t be true!” even as we grudgingly knew, unfortunately, it was. The losing side in 2020 has been fed the notion “It IS NOT TRUE!” (See John Oliver.) That’s a harder bridge to cross.

BTW, I remain infuriated by the continued voter suppression, particularly in Florida. The GOP won the state by about 340,000. More than twice as many released felons were disenfranchised. Maybe the Sunshine State COULD have gone the other way…

“IRS did an audit”: 240-970-7264

“The robot stated that the IRS had ‘fraud’ investigation underway and I should phone the number immediately.”

Twice on the same day this month, I got messages on the answering machine from 240-970-7264. The details were ominous, but the technology was laughable.

A mechanical voice describes a “criminal investigation from I.R.S… There is a fraud which you are hiding from federal government.” Note the lack of the article “the”, suggesting the person recording is NOT a native American English speaker.

I Googled the number and came across Report the Call attached to that number. One person before me, and at least one subsequently, experienced similar annoyance.

One of them noted, “The robot stated that the IRS had ‘fraud’ investigation underway and I should phone the number immediately.” That’s correct in my case as well. Area code 240 is in Maryland, in suburban DC, BTW.

It seems incredible that anyone would fall for such an obvious hoax, but the IRS indicates that this type of fraud is ongoing, some of it far more threatening than these robocalls.

“Note that the IRS does not:
“Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
“Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
“Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.”

I know some people have been known to call back the number to waste their time, but I’m not returning a call to 240-970-7264 and wasting mine. Now, if YOU want to call, knock yourselves out!

The annoying DISCOVERy

Why, if someone else had my card, did she make only that one purchase?

As I have noted, I love using my DISCOVER card. It was the first bank credit card I ever owned, back in 1986. I had a few store cards, notably Sears, before that; in fact, Sears and DISCOVER were once linked financially, but I don’t believe that’s still the case.

DISCOVER is cool. They send me an e-mail saying: you want 5% cashback on this category of purchases for the next three months? Sure! They make it easy, whereas some credit card companies put you through hoops in order to get rewards. When I go to, usually for gifts, I often use the DISCOVER cashback feature, which can be posted automatically.

I went to Radio Shack to make a purchase on January 17 of just under $20, and of course, used my DISCOVER card. My notification to pay my bill came in late February, due on March 10, and it seemed high, but I didn’t actually look at it until the week it was due.

Included was a charge of $163.04 for Radio Shack on January 28. I didn’t remember going there a second time, so I called the store. I was told that among the purchases was a BluTooth; since I’ve NEVER owned a BluTooth, I KNEW instantly these weren’t my items.

Here’s the weird thing, though: BOTH Radio Shack purchases were allegedly made by a woman named… let’s call her Toodles. Now I DID make the January 17 purchase; I remember climbing over a snowbank to get to Westgate shopping center.

The other thing is that the purchaser had the card. Because I have been a customer so long, I have this 25th-anniversary card, as well as the regular one. I must have used the anniversary card there, then the regular card with my subsequent purchases. Bad form on my part.

So I call DISCOVER, explain this all a couple of times. The guy in the fraud unit is as puzzled as I that the $20 purchase that I acknowledge making is attributed to Toodles.

One of the things I was required to do was make a police report, so when I got home, I called the non-emergency number, and two policemen came over to my house. I gave them the information, and I could tell they were a bit suspicious of ME. Why, if, in fact, Toodles had had my card, did she make only that one purchase? I couldn’t answer that, of course. Guilt? Fear of getting caught? How the heck do I know?

I was without my DISCOVER card for less than a week, from March 6 to March 11, when the replacement cards arrived in the mail.

That previous card I had so long actually had memorized the sixteen digits. I’ll miss you, old DISCOVER card number. Yikes, I had to contact the cable company, because the autopay went on my old DISCOVER card…


There’s this story about guy who spent $30 on gasoline yet was charged over $84,000 on his credit card. And there are conflicting stories from the gas station and the credit card company as to whether the gas station was paid; the credit card company says yes, and that they need to return the money; the gas station says no, it wasn’t. It’s unclear how this debacle began. Regardless, this guy is majorly jammed up. His paycheck gets deposited automatically into his bank, but he can’t access the money, because the amount was applied towards the $84,000 he “owes.”

This reminds me why sometimes I feel like putting my money under my mattress. Instead, I have a number of bills automatically withdrawn from my checking account, optimally correctly. It seems to me that when something as much of an outlier as a high five-digit purchase that is not the norm would have generated a call to the cardholder. I have in fact gotten such calls; sometimes, it is a legitimate purchase I made while out of time, but occasionally, it was a fraudulent transaction.

Speaking of fraud, I got no fewer than three notices Friday, the 13th, plus another the next day, from Amazon, Twitter, and Yahoo1, and LinkedIn. The Amazon e-mail is fairly representative:
“At Amazon we take your security and privacy very seriously. As part of our routine monitoring, we discovered a list of email address and password sets posted online. While the list was not Amazon-related, we know that many customers reuse their passwords on several websites. We believe your email address and password set was on that list. So we have taken the precaution of resetting your password. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused but felt that it was necessary to help protect you and your Amazon account.”

What a pain. I have had trouble with keeping track of passwords since forever. At work, I have to change my password every seven weeks. Obviously, I know all the “do nots” of password use. But apparently, some folks in an organization I’m affiliated with do not, because I got this e-mail, coincidentally also last Friday:

“There seems to be some confusion about the reason for password protection on a computer.

“I understand a password to secure the computer from unauthorized use. This would include, for example, unauthorized access to our database. Such access could be t make changes, or gather personal information about our members.

“Thus, writing the password on a piece of paper and displaying it clearly near the keyboard, even if under another piece of paper, would seem to be contrary to the reason for a password.”

Of course, the letter writer is correct. But I have no fewer than two dozen user/password combinations, and I’ve been locked out of databases for excessive tries. So using the same combo or writing the combos down seem, in the moment, to be attractive options. At least until something goes wrong.

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