Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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In Which I Name Names

I thought I was smarter than this, but I guess not. Here is the story:

I do seasonal work in disaster relief but there weren’t any major disasters last year so I only worked 5 weeks. I’ve been looking for another job, either one that pays me as well, or one I won’t feel guilty about leaving if I get called back. I recently updated my resume on Work In Texas, the website associated with the state’s unemployment system. I was contacted by a representative saying she might have a job for me.

The woman gave me the name Florence Carter. She texted me a few times then asked if we could move the conversation to Google Hangouts. She told me the name of the company was Amanta Healthcare Limited. I looked them up. They are a company in India that provides medical products. It was a very professional website. It had several pages. Google also showed me an article on the company by Bloomberg, and there was information about them being bought out. Looked legit. I thought, okay, they’re in India, that’s why they want to handle everything online.

We conducted an online interview. This is not the first time someone has asked me for that. They offered me a data entry job, work from home. I have friends who work from home for companies like Hilton and AAA, so this was not a red flag for me.

Ms Carter told me I would need to purchase some software and the company would send me a check. The next day, Fedex dropped off an envelope. Inside was a check for $4950.00. That seemed like a lot of money. It was drawn on Chase bank. I called Chase and gave them the name on the check, NY Iola Attorney Trust Account Moliterno PC, and the tracking and account number off the bottom of the check. Chase verified that it was an active account.

The package also contained a letter, stating not to bring the check to the bank to cash. Honestly, I would never do that. The last time I tried to cash a check, the bank involved kept something like 6%. When I was a young person, you could take a check to the bank it was drawn on and cash it with an ID. Nowadays the bank won’t cash it unless you also have an account at that bank. So still no red flags since I was like, “Why would I do that?”

The letter also told me to drop an email to Caroline Hampton, the Financial Accounting Officer, at payrollrep@accountant.com to let her know I had received the check. She emailed me back telling me to deposit the check and follow up with my supervisor, who I assumed was Florence Carter.

I bank with Citibank. Citibank does not have an office in Texas, where I live. I deposited the check using the phone app. Florence asked for a copy of the deposit ticket, but I didn’t use one. I took a screen shot showing the pending deposit, but it did not have any of my banking information in it.

Florence asked me how much money was deposited to my account. I told her that I deposited the whole check, but my bank would hold it for several days since it was from a new source. I didn’t have any additional money showing in my account. She asked if I could cover the cost of some software until the check cleared so I could start training. I figured I could live without $200. She asked me to use it to purchase a Google Play card to use for the software. Odd, but I had the check so okay, let’s see where this goes. Worst comes to worst, I own some new software I don’t need.

I went to Walmart. I picked up some coolant for my car, some washcloths and the gift card. My card was declined. I really needed the coolant, so I had everything else put back. $8.73. Declined. So I called the bank.

Calling the bank is always a hassle because it takes so much effort to get a person. The system really wants you to use the automated information but I have never yet called the bank for something that is prerecorded. I finally got a person. He hmmm’d and aha’d and told me he needed to refer me to another department. Something was up. The new person was less circumspect. She told me right up that my account was frozen for a fraudulent check.

Now I am embarrassed about taking a bad check, but I was really frustrated that I couldn’t access my own money that was in the account. The bank explained that we have to wait for the check to bounce out of the account to unfreeze it. It’s a 3 day weekend so that means my funds are frozen until at least Tuesday. The idea is, I shouldn’t be able to access money from the bad check. No benefit for me from fraud. I don’t mind that. The check is bad, I’m clearly not going to get the money. But I don’t carry cash, so I am effectively broke for the weekend. That bothers me. I had plans.

I haven’t contacted Florence Carter since then, although she has tried several times to reach me. I don’t know what I would say. I’d rather have her think I stole the money than know what happened. Because the longer they don’t know they’ve been found out, the more time the authorities have to catch up with them.

I did report the fraud. I have contacted the FBI, who handles internet crime, and filed a report with them. I have filed with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). And I have filed with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. I had to file a complaint against my bank, which I hated to do but I needed to get something on record showing that I took the check in good faith. I’m an intended victim, not a perpetrator.

I also took the check to the police. They looked it over. It even had a watermark. The officer said, he would have checked the same things I did, and he would have taken the check. It might be a scam, but it was a good one. So I feel less stupid but still too naive.

I took the check to Chase. It took the manager about 10 seconds to state that it was a fraudulent check. I asked how she knew and she said the font was wrong. Well. How would I ever know a thing like that? An average person isn’t going to scrutinize a check to that degree, if they even have a good check for comparison. I had to remind the manager to look at the account, since it was an active account, because if they’re writing checks on that account, I’m not the only person getting targeted. She did pull the account up and said it was flagged for fraud on the 16th. Well that was yesterday, and it was probably my check that caused that.

So as things stand, I am broke for the weekend, and maybe for the next week. I am embarrassed and I feel a little stupid. But I am not out any money, just some time. I’m telling you this because I thought I knew better and I still got taken. It could happen to you.


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Small Victories

It’s been a couple of rainy days and I’ve been in the house since I got home Friday. It’s now Sunday.

I don’t have any money so I can’t exactly go places. I did request my first unemployment payment today, but they have me down for receiving checks and that means it can take time for the money to arrive. Then I have to cash the check, and send some of it to the bank.

Yes, Citibank does not have any branch offices in Texas, so I have to mail them my opening deposit. Very frustrating as well as causing delays, but once I get that initial deposit in, I can use direct deposit. As long as I can get it resolved before the second payment. The second request is right before my trip and I’d like to get paid for vacation.

I have had another sale in my Etsy shop, so that’s cool.

I finally managed to take a shower this evening. I should have done it while my roommates were out of the house but I couldn’t pull myself together. This is a small victory, but the bipolar didn’t win today. My hair is washed, my jammies are clean, my legs have been shaved. Not well, but shaved none the less. I am all girly again and I don’t smell.

You know, personal hygiene is such a struggle for me. It’s like, it’s just a pain in the ass and it feels overwhelming. I don’t understand this because once I’m actually in the shower, I am happy to be there. It just seems like getting over the threshold into the tub is nearly impossible. I don’t know why that is.

I had a shower. I took my meds. I ate. I didn’t exercise though, I am bad at doing that. And I’ll go to bed soon, which is a reasonable time for me. I don’t have any obligations until tomorrow afternoon.

Life is full of small victories. I made my own breakfast. I journaled. I made some plans. I taught that vision board class last month, I just need to find something else to teach now. I might see if I can get certified to teach WRAP.

I am hoping to hear that I’ve been accepted for coach / evaluator at work. I know it’s only been a week since I applied for it so it may easily take some time to be approved. But I am an optimist about time.

Of course I am a pessimist about the background check. I’ve been doing the job for a year now, 2 years if you count my time as a local hire. I would hate to lose it at this point because of my credit report. And I’m afraid I will.

Still, I am clean and ready for bed, and that’s a good thing. Sometimes little things are all there is.


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Starting a New Week

It’s late Sunday night and I will be going to bed soon, but I want to think about what’s going on next week.

First of all, bank. I finally got my debit card and it is now activated, but I don’t have the pin. Apparently Citibank mails it to you under separate cover. So I have a card that is active but no money in the account and no way to put money in the account without a pin. So this is a little frustrating.

I already heard from unemployment. The turnaround time was really fast. I got paperwork and a handbook and a decline letter. They said I didn’t earn enough to qualify for unemployment. Now really, people who earn less money probably need unemployment more than people who earn the big bucks, so that already is annoying. But also the unemployment people didn’t have all my income for the year. I had to print out and send them a copy of my W2 for 2018. I mailed it Friday, the post office says they’ll have it Monday. Hopefully so, because I need them to pay me. That reminds me, I need to update my banking information with them.

Tomorrow morning I have an appointment at the USPS to get my passport. Or rather to order it. I have to get up and stay up long enough to do that. Standing in line will be the hardest part. Actually, turning over my birth certificate will be the hardest part. I can stand in line any time, but it’s a right bitch to get the correct birth certificate. Someone with my name was born in the same city but 3 years before me. Every time I request my birth certificate, they send me hers. Standing in line is cake compared to municipal bureaucracy.

I also need to stop by the pharmacy and pick up my prescription. That’s the blood pressure med. I am out of mood stabilizers, so the next couple weeks should be interesting. I called the pharmacy who says there are no refills on the script. However, it’s not like my doctor to put in one month for one med and 3 months for the other 2. I asked the pharmacy to contact him, but I left a message for the doctor myself.

Tuesday I need to drive up to Denton to go to the office. Now I need to do it anyway because I am having issues with my enterprise password so I need to see tech support. Besides that, work is doing a background check on me. You may well ask, haven’t I already been there for 2 years and shouldn’t this already be done? Well, yes and yes. In fact I asked the officer about it when I called them back. I figured, since I’ve applied for a few jobs while I’m off work, that it was one of them doing the check. But no, it’s my regular job. And the reason? “We’re catching up,” is what he said. But I will go up to the office, so that is my safety catch. Hopefully that night I can meet up with friends for dinner or drinks, though I really can’t afford it.

Elcie is working again, starting Tuesday. Full time for her. So that’s a good thing. Maybe she can pay me back some of the money she owes me. I could sure use it.

Also, I set up the hotel room for Vancouver. I had points from being deployed last fall so I was able to reserve a room for July 4. Something good from all the time spent at the Hilton Garden Inn.


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Today Was a Good Day

It’s so easy to talk about the bad days, but today was actually a good day.

I woke up and managed to stay awake for the first time in, well, more than 2 weeks. I have been waking up about 9 am and doing a few things, then going out into the living room to plug in my phone. Now everyone sleeps late in this house, so even as late as noontime, the living room is dark and quiet. So it’s really easy to just stretch out on the sofa and nap for another hour or two.

But this morning I had calls to make, so I stayed up. And the calls were successful, woot woot!

First call was to Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). That’s the unemployment office to the rest of the world. Texas really has exactly one unemployment office which is in Austin (the capitol) so you really can’t go to unemployment. What they do have is the TWC, which is basically an employment office. Because they are not concerned about you getting money, they are concerned about you working. I am concerned about me getting money, job is a fine way to do that, but I have paid into the unemployment system and so has my most recent employer, so I don’t mind saying I feel rather entitled to the money. This is not charity; it is, in fact, insurance.

Anyway, in Texas you can only apply for unemployment once every 12 months. I had a deployment end last spring, and I applied for unemployment on June 3. I did work again in Sept – Dec, but when that deployment ended, I couldn’t apply for unemployment again. Now since it was within 12 months, I could continue collecting on the previous claim. But funding ran out and I was still within the 12 months, so I couldn’t apply again.

However, today is June 3, so guess what? Application time, baby. I tried to apply online but got a message that said “we can serve you better by phone”. My first call this morning was to TWC. They took my application by phone. They really couldn’t believe I earned as much as I did during that Sept – Dec run, but I was working 60 and 70 hour weeks, so with all that overtime, I was doing great. Hopefully that means I’ll get a decent check, but really anything is better than the nothing I’m getting now. So this is a good thing, it’s just a waiting game now.

The second call was to Citibank, my new bank. Now I do most of my banking online so I didn’t realize until later that they actually do not have a physical branch in Texas. I need to make an initial deposit to fully open the account, but what I have is a paper check. I had to be sure I could just deposit it into an ATM. They said to use any ATM that accepts deposits, so I’ll have to use one at an actual bank not at a corner store. So I’m trusting them for this. I also got the passcode for my new debit card today. That means I should get the card in the next day or two, which is also good. In the meantime, I need to change my banking information with unemployment, so the money goes to the new account. Also a good call, because it answered a question.

The third call was to my employer. Remember that I do seasonal work for the government. I get deployed, I get furloughed. I work when there’s work, but I don’t get paid when there’s no work. That’s why I get unemployment. I do look for other work in my down time because I need to do something, but this time no luck.

Anyway, I am required to keep up with trainings and other meetings while I’m not deployed. I got a notice that I had missed a training that was due for the end of May. I have a company phone, but I don’t have a company computer, so I didn’t know how to take the training. I spoke to a very helpful person who let me know that even though I got the notice, I was not in trouble. I wouldn’t be able to access the class without a company computer so I’m not expected to do it until I’m deployed again.

While I was talking to her, I asked about the coach / evaluator certification. What that is, is a person who signs off on certain requirements for being fully qualified for a position. I am a qualified ASPS, and I have opened a task book for the next higher position, which is housing lead. A task book is the list of necessary skills and requirements that someone needs to observe you doing. The observer is the coach / evaluator. Well, you can only evaluate a position for which you are qualified. So I would be able to sign off on people who are working on their ASPS qualification.

I asked about how to become a coach / evaluator and the helpful person sent me the link to the requirements. Pretty much, you need to be qualified for the role you want to evaluate, and you need to have the task book opened for the next level. Check and check. Now all I need is to let my cadre coordinator know I’m interested. I can do that tomorrow, after I verify who that is. Coordinators also get deployed and furloughed, which means the info can change while I’m out of the office with no notice.

That makes 3 calls, all productive, which is a good day in itself. I also went to group and hung out afterwards with some of the other clients. When I got home, my roommate had made roasted potatoes and barbecue ribs. Momo Kitty fell asleep on my feet, which is very affectionate for him. Charli is always on me for attention but Momo is pretty self contained. It’s now 11:00 and I’m thinking of bed.

Tomorrow is another busy day. I have group in the morning, then I’m going to visit a friend who is in the hospital. I hope to add in a visit to another friend who is in the area after that, just because it would be convenient. I mean, she’s my friend and I’d love to see her, but the timing would be convenient. I am short of gas money these days.

It looks like a good start to the week.


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When Is a Courtesy NOT a Courtesy?

Money is still tight. I have 5 days away from being able to apply for unemployment again. That’s apply, not receive, they could turn me down.

There’s no reason to, but they could. I hate being at someone else’s mercy.

I have applied to Half Price Books. I don’t know why I didn’t think of them sooner. I guess I hate to burn a bridge with them. I would like best if someone could hire me, knowing I’m going to be deployed for months at a time, but having a job of some kind for me when I get back. Still, if they’d pay me close to $40K a year, I might reconsider.

I did sell a hat, and someone sent me money in my GoFundMe. So there is a little money coming in.

My bank “courtesy paid” two items for me, and overdrew me by more than $200. If I don’t pay it within 60 days — more like 35 days at this point — they will charge off my account. I didn’t think they’d pay anything without the money being there. And I won’t have $200 to spare before the 60 days is up.

So I opened an account with Citibank. They were willing to take me on. I need $25 for the savings account because they open checking and savings simultaneously. I have no idea how to get that to them. I guess I should call and find out.

I have no idea how to come up with the money I need for a passport. Or my meds, for that matter. Life is stressful. And money would, literally like $500, would solve everything right now.