Word to the wise… don’t EVER put checks in the mailbox! I totally should have known better… we’ve all heard stories about stolen checks. However, because I only have so many hours in the day… ok, that doesn’t exactly hold water, either, seeing as how I spend a preposterous amount of time PreoccupiedWithArmitage online… damn it, Richard!
Let’s face facts: I’m just too lazy to make trips to the post office!
Let’s back up a moment. As many of you know, I own my veterinary practice.
Or the bank does. A couple of years ago, when Hubby and I first started the process of purchasing the hospital, we learned that the practice itself is an entity, comprised of its clientele/records, equipment, pharmacy and all that jazz. The building and property are a separate entity, and were sold to us separately. Our accountant suggested that we form two separate LLCs, one for the veterinary practice, and one for the real estate, mainly for tax and liability purposes… and that’s what we did. Any veterinary practice, it turns out, pays a monthly rent, whether to an outside party, or to the owner itself. In my case, I pay rent to my real estate LLC… not making very much money off of it, as the LLC then basically uses all but a fraction of the rent payment to pay the real estate mortgage. The practice pays a separate mortgage for itself. All this to say… I have two business checking accounts. The primary account is for the practice, and pays all of the bills, its own mortgage, the many forms of insurance, the payroll, the taxes, the inventory, laboratory fees, licensing fees… the list goes on indefinitely. The secondary account is for the real estate entity, and pays only its mortgage payment, plus once in a while, a bill that applies strictly to the building itself, such as a plumbing repair.
Last month, early October, I put my mortgage payments in the mail box…. one envelope containing both mortgage checks (out of separate checking accounts) which goes to the same company holding the loans on both… why not save a stamp? These are some of the largest checks that I write, so I always keep an eye on the bank accounts to see when they clear, and in the 2 years that I’ve owned the practice, they’ve always cleared the bank within a week of my putting them in the mail. Not last month… I watched and watched, and never saw the mortgage payments show up. Finally on Monday, the first business day in November, I decided to call the company to inquire about whether they’d received the payments, and when I did that, I happened to notice that there was a check cleared on Monday for $204 written off of the secondary real estate account. I clicked on the check, not remembering any plumbing repairs etc., and sure enough, it looked like a banking error. The check was written by a “Garrison and Sons” with a local address, and made out to an auto parts store. After learning that the mortgage payments indeed never reached their destination, I then called the bank to dispute the $204 check that was written by another local business. The bank looked it over and agreed to refund the $204, and I didn’t think much of it.
Yesterday, I decided to check the account to see if the bank had refunded its error, and low and behold, there were 4 more checks written off this account. All from “Garrison and Sons”… I called the bank again, and this time, I clicked over to the primary account and noticed 2 checks that cleared yesterday written off the primary account… and you guessed it… this other account was now clearing checks written by “Garrison and Sons”. Suddenly the light bulb went on! I realized this was check fraud, if it involved my two separate accounts purporting to be the same “Garrison and Sons”… and sure enough, a quick google search revealed that “Garrison and Sons” was completely bogus and didn’t exist in our town.
Apparently, some miscreant, in bold daylight, took my mortgage payments out of the mailbox in the 2 hour time frame between when I’d put them there and when the mailman arrives (as a matter of habit I always write and mail checks first thing in the morning, and he arrives mid-morning)… and then somehow printed some very convincing checks for “Garrison and Sons” that had my bank routing numbers and account numbers along the bottom. All this took a couple of weeks, as the first checks started clearing just this week, and I count myself very fortunate that they made the mistake of using my secondary checking account first. Since I almost never write any check out of that secondary account except the one mortgage payment, I caught it quickly. Had they only used my primary checking account… well, it would have taken a long time for me to catch that, as I write at least 30 checks per month out of that account. Most likely, as long as they stayed within reasonable amounts less than $500, I’d not have looked twice at checks clearing the primary account for who knows how long!
One kind of funny thing about all this was that aside from that first check made out to the auto parts store, all 6 of the other checks out of both accounts were made out to Braums, a local fast-food restaurant. Hubby and I were joking that it was a good thing that whoever stole our account routing numbers didn’t have more refined tastes! I mean, if I was going to do check fraud and spend it all on restaurants, I’d be fine dining! LOL.
But that’s the only funny thing about it. It turns out that the only option at this point was to close those accounts and open new ones… and be more careful about the checks in the future. This was a simple task for the secondary account… but the primary account? What a huge crap-tastic headache! Not only are our merchant services (all the payments made to the business via credit card) tied into that account, but the payroll, state and federal taxes, insurance payments and a long list of other bills are automatically/electronically drawn from that account. Which means that after spending 2 hours at the bank opening new accounts, transferring money etc., I then had to contact at least 15 other companies to notify them to draw payments out of a new account.
Then it occured to me that I’d better go through my checkbook and follow-up on every check written in October… first to be sure it had cleared, so there wouldn’t be any outstanding checks trying to clear a closed account, and second in case more checks never did arrive at their destination. Turns out I’d actually written 2 other checks on that fateful day in early October, and neither had cleared… so the scumbags apparently took all my mail out of the box that day and other payments aside from the mortgage never reached their destination. So I had to also call those companies and explain why those payments were late. I’m telling you… it was a headache that took literally an entire day to resolve, because each of those various companies involves a lot of phone waiting time, explaining the situation, getting transferred to different departments, then filling out appropriate forms and faxing them in.
Such a waste of time and energy, and all so some jackass could eat at Braums!!
Then, as if that weren’t enough crap for one day, I was on the phone with some company or other when a call came through that I let go to voicemail. Turns out, the voicemail was from my Young
Love’s Persona Non Grata’s teacher. He apparently pushed a classmate into a computer station in anger after not getting a turn at the computer task, and was sent to the Principal’s office. So he’s in big huge HORRIBLE trouble (and he’s lucky I didn’t take out my frustrations of the day by paddling his little ass!)…. as it is, he’s lost all his electronic privileges, his Halloween candy, his Gymnastics Play Night for November and has acquired a number of unsavory new chores for the next 2 weeks, minimum, pending perfect behavior at home and at school for the duration! (He’s lucky Hubby just texted me that the Young Persona Non Grata did manage to make the honor roll… mollified me just a bit!)
At any rate…. apologies for the rant… but please, don’t make my mistake!
Public service announcement: If you write checks at all in this modern day and age… do NOT put them into your mailbox!
Please… drop them off at the post office BEFORE you resume your regular Richarding activities!