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It’s hard to know which fraud to believe

Generally I’m a trusting person, but 10 recent days have me perched on the precipice of paranoia.

It starts on a Saturday, when I receive an email alert saying suspicious activity has been noted on my checking account. I usually ignore emails like that because they’re mostly scams originating in some country where English seldom is spoken. The tip-offs usually are in the spelling and syntax: ‘Dear Custamer: Suspichious activity has been found upon the account of your. Send money ordeur for $500 to adress below.”

But this one’s spelled correctly and includes an official-looking logo. So I open the email, which takes me to a link that requests information such as my Social Security number, bank account passwords and where my wife hides her jewelry. I immediately contact the bank’s help line, which assures me there’s been no suspicious activity and the alert is a fake.

But on Monday, my wife receives a phone message saying there has been suspicious activity on HER account. She returns the call and is informed by someone who may or may not be a bank employee that no suspicious activity has been found on her account, either. We both breathe sighs of relief. Until Tuesday, when I try to access my account online and discover that checks have been written for every dollar I had in it. Plus $50,000 I didn’t.

On Wednesday I drive to a building which I’m pretty sure is my bank, but after a bogus email and a phony phone call, I’m not taking anything for granted. A woman who purports to be a banking official takes my information and places a series of calls to what she claims is the company’s fraud department. Although, for all I know, she’s talking to an accomplice in Bulgaria.

Eventually it’s determined that the activity is authentically suspicious and what probably happened is that when I opened the original email which warned of fraudulent activity that hadn’t occurred it enabled someone to actually commit fraudulent activity. Fortunately, the alleged banking official assures me, none of the checks cleared and eventually the money I had in the account will be returned. All I have to do, she says, is write a check for a deposit to open a new account.

“There’s no money in my checking account,” I point out. “How about if you just take my word for it.”

On Monday, I receive a follow-up letter from the bank thanking me for my business and urging me to apply for its credit card, which carries an APR of 13.24 percent, with a $35 late fee and a 24.24 percent APR for cash advances.

I’m pretty sure that one’s authentic.