Kiss5Tigers

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


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Sioux Falls

I am staying in a Holiday Inn Express, which is a pretty good hotel. I usually stay at a Hilton, but this one is about a mile from my work location so that’s pretty cool. I could almost walk to work, if the weather were just a bit warmer.

I find it’s not the temperature that gets me, it’s the wind. It’s hovered around 35 degrees F (for you C people, that’s just above freezing) and I would be good in just my hoodie and scarf if the wind would stop. Plus, it’s like summer in Texas, you just don’t spend that much time outside. You go from a heated hotel to a heated car to a heated office.

I have made some friends. There is D who was very chatty and I missed her Friday because she was sick. There is K who is the wild one. She’s the one who can probably get me into trouble. And there is A, who I know from another deployment. Assuming we are here at Christmas, we have plans to spend the holiday together.

Having friends means having a social life, so I have used the company card A LOT. I can’t begin to imagine how much I owe for food and drinks. I have also consumed more alcohol in the last 3 days than in the year before that. I need to slow down. Once I get paid, I can stop using the company card and go back to using my own money.

Yesterday we puttered around downtown Sioux Falls. It was very cute. We stopped in at Woodgrain Brewing Co for a quick drink and to make our game plan. I had a milk stout that was very good. A had a much paler beer than I like and K had wine. All local. I like to try local food when I get to an area.

We headed up Phillips St and the first thing we noticed was all the sculpture on the sidewalk. Apparently they were having a sculpture walk. There was everything from byper-realistic to surreal to assemblage. I would have liked to be able to look more at the pieces but the temperature made that difficult.

Now Phillips St is the part of town that is all little shops and restaurants. We went into several shops. One was called Urban Archeology and it had some cool antique and vintage stuff. The thing I wanted — that I will buy if I am stationed back in Sioux Falls — was a vintage 1800’s crazy quilt that was $50. It was amazing. But as much as I love it, I have pee-pee kitty who marks all my laundry. I would probably resell it.

We went into a store called Spice and Tea Exchange which smelled incredible. It reminds me of Penzey’s back home only somehow more quaint. I found several things I would get for friends. There were the tiniest measuring spoons, local salt rubs and seasoning, and merlot salt which was an amazing magenta color. A checked out the teas and said there was a great selection, but I don’t know, it looked small compared to the spice section.

We went into a little florist shop that I forget the name. It was a tiny crowded shop that had everything from hand embroidered tea towels to fudge. Oh yeah, and flowers. I had a sample of the penuche, it was amazing.

I made us stop at Zandbroz. It was a most intriguing store to me. It had jewelry, bath goods, books and stationery. I found a ton of stuff I’d like to own. It’s also the only place I went that had postcards. There were pretty costly at $1.50 each, but if I get stationed back here, I will for sure buy a bunch. Some of them would make great collage backgrounds.

We ended the night at Turks & Caicos Cabana Grille. The food was amazing. I had the huli huli chicken which was 3 big pieces of chicken thigh and spam fried rice. Very Hawaiian to me. I had enough to bring home, though I have no idea when I’ll get to eat it. A had the steak tacos; K had salmon. But I was quite pleased with my choice.

Reminder: the photos go on my Facebook page, and you can look me up. Allison Leonard. I’m the one with the colorful A, though that may change.

Today is laundry and a short trip to check out the local area. A’s granddaughter is a rock hound so we are on a quest for some local specimens. When we get back, time to pack and Monday is a travel day.

Now it’s time for breakfast so I’m off.


Leave a comment

Where Have I Been?

Where have I been for the last 12 or so days?

I have been to Alaska.

I took a cruise with a friend to the state of Alaska on the Celebrity Millennium. I’ve never been on a cruise before so it was all new to me.

I don’t need to tell you the saga of the passport, I have already done so in great detail. And really, everything else went just fine.

I got to Love Field in Dallas in plenty of time. I have the TSA known traveler number so I got through security in record time. I had a 737 from Dallas to Seattle, but the plane to Vancouver was another story! I had to walk out onto the tarmac to climb stairs into a turbo-prop that held maybe 100 people! She made so much noise you really couldn’t talk to the other people on board. I wasn’t sure she was gonna make it!

This is the airplane from Seattle to Vancouver. That’s the pilot in the orange vest.

Met my friend at Vancouver airport and took a shuttle to the Hilton. I paid for the room with points I had so it was essentially free.

Boarded the boat no problem. Stateroom was pretty small but big enough. We had 2 beds. My friend, K, took the window bed and I got the one close to the bathroom. I still had a view out the porthole.

Buffet 3 meals a day. I ate a LOT of sweets. I had desert with lunch and dinner, and often a waffle with breakfast. I miss sugar, lol. I did eat some interesting food though. We had tapas at Qsine which is apparently an international chain. The sushi lollipops were amazing. There was lobster and ceviche and steak. K got decorate-your-own mix and match cupcakes for desert. I had beignets. I also tried reindeer sausage and a yak burger. Reindeer must be a very lean meat because the sausage was on the dry side. Yak is sweeter than beef but I really enjoyed it.

The cities where we stopped were more like towns. Ketchikan. Icy Strait Point at Hoonah. Juneau. Skagway. Even Anchorage is not that big of a city, only around 300,000 people. Of course we mostly saw the tourist part of town. The buildings looked like Bearskin Neck in Rockport. There were jewelry stores all over. I tried on some amazing pieces that I would never be able to afford. I liked the colorful jewelry. I liked the Northern Lights topaz, and the ammolite which reminded me of opals. I like opals too but I wouldn’t buy them in Alaska because it’s not where they’re from. I found a gorgeous colored sapphire bracelet that I wish I could afford. I wonder, though, how do they know it’s a sapphire if it’s not blue? Isn’t a white sapphire essentially a diamond? Isn’t a red one a ruby? I guess I don’t know that much about gemstones.

What I would have liked to see, would be more First Nations art. I don’t have the budget for that either, to be honest. I would like to go back with $200 to $500 for a piece or 2 of art. I did buy some blank cards with art on them that I will be sending out to people.

We saw a Tlingit village and learned about totem poles. Apparently there are several reasons you might create a totem pole: place markers, commemorate an event, stuff you’d expect. But you might also make one to shame someone. So the Secretary of State who purchased Alaska was named Seward. The local people invited him to a potlach – a community meal – which he attended. Their rules of hospitality say that if you are invited to someone’s house, they are supposed to invite you to theirs. Seward never returned the invitation so a totem pole was made to shame him for not following the expected protocol.

I stood in the water of the Icy Strait. My feet were tired and the cold water felt good. But also, I have stood in the Atlantic and in the Pacific. Now I have stood in Alaska’s waters. Next is the Gulf of Mexico, probably at Galveston. Water is important to me. I don’t know why. I have lived landlocked for 25 years now but I am still more at home on the ocean.

My feet in Icy Strait. You can see the dirt on my legs between my ankles and my jeans.

We went on a nature hike that like to kill me. I don’t know why I didn’t think that Alaska would be mountainous! The other people who went were obvious hikers on a regular basis. I did however find out how to distinguish female bear scat from male. Females apparently squat in one place to do their business so it resembles a cow pie. Males walk while they poop so it is spread over a wider area. I think it’s a territory marking thing, but what do I know? Even with jeans and boots, I got yellow Alaska dirt on my legs.

We did see eagles, lots of them. And a really huge raven. He must have stood a solid 18″ tall and he was bold! He stole french fries from people’s plates at a local restaurant. I also saw a marmot sunning itself, salmon jumping from the ocean where sea lions were catching them, and a mama and baby whale named Flame and Bunsen. Very cool. I also found out there are 5 types of salmon, which you can remember using your fingers: thumb = chum, index = sockeye (this is the finger you would use to poke someone in the eye), middle = king (this is the longest finger and therefore the king of the hand), ring = silver aka coho (put a silver ring on it), and pinkie = pink.

We went to the Anchorage Museum which was interesting. There was an exhibit called Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition. It was an expedition looking for the Northwest Passage which went missing. Apparently cannibalism was involved. Really, the ships would get ice bound and simply be crushed. We also had a look at First Nations artifacts. There are something like 10 tribes with a common language root, though like in the lower 48, their cultures varied. Again, I would have liked a little more art, but natural science is important. I bought some notecards at the museum shop.

It was a very good trip and I hope to travel more.


Leave a comment

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.