I Got Mugged In Istanbul-Part 2
(This post was originally posted on Ms Sparky on May 21, 2008. I moved it to Blue Behind Bars when I separated my personal blog from my political blog.)
Continued from “I Got Mugged In Istanbul-Part 1-See Below
Fortunately, Cal had enough taxi fare to get us back to our hotel where there was an internet cafe. I needed to contact Wells Fargo Bank so I logged into my Wells Fargo account. I checked my accounts and and after several tries was able to contact Wells Fargo via the “International Number” and cancel my cards. It would appear I had acted quickly enough and had averted any potential damage to my accounts. So I thought.
I then contacted the US Consulate. I was so afraid I was going to be stuck in Istanbul for weeks without a passport. But, do to the large number of US Citizens needing replacement passports, the US Consulate in Istanbul is one of the few in the world that can make you a temporary passport “while you wait”.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I just replayed the mugging over and over in my head. What could I have done differently? How could I have prevented this? Why was I targeted? Who knows, but being the victim of anything is just not OK with me.
The next morning we headed out bright and early to the US Consulate across town. There was a shop owner right across the street that took passport photos….how convenient.
As we crossed the street and headed for the Consulate it occurred to me….”I think Gloria worked on this project!” For a brief moment, I forgot about being mugged and was thinking about the time I worked with Gloria in Kansas. She is a journeyman electrician as well and a damn good one. She told me she and her husband had worked on the new US Consulate in Istanbul and how much she loved living there. This must be it. I started looking at the building from and electrician’s perspective. It’s was a beautiful building. “Nice job Gloria!” Gloria is by far one of the best “tool buddies” I’ve ever had and I really enjoyed working with her.
The staff at the Consulate was very helpful and efficient. Obviously, they had done this many times. They told us that Americans are the primary targets. We tend to carry more cash and credit cards. They average ten replacement passports per day. I asked her what the chances were of having my passport recovered and returned. She said Zero. I was so disappointed. I had my Antarctica stamps and South America Visas in there. Whatever!!! Damn thieves!!!
I was issued a temporary passport, good for one year and a letter to Turkish Customs written in English and Turkish explaining why I didn’t have an “entrance visa” in my passport. This took all of an hour and was relatively painless. I spent the rest of the day packing and ranting about my experience. Although he appeared very supportive and didn’t say anything, I’m sure my husband had to be thinking “Just Shut Up!!!! Enough already!!!! Get me back to Iraq!!!!”
The next day we went to the airport, checked our bags and headed to Customs. We had done this many many times. You stand in line, the Customs agent looks at your passport, stamps it and you move on. No fuss, no muss!! Well, after standing in line for what seemed like hours, I get to a customs agent. He looks at my passport and letter and says “What is this? Where is your entrance stamp?” I said, “Read the letter.” They must get hundreds of these letters each month and he is looking at it like he’s never seen one before. Again he’s says, “Where’s your stamp?” Now I’m getting aggravated and with a raised voice and somewhat of an attitude I tell him “There is no stamp. I was mugged. Read the letter!!!!” I look back at my husband standing in line behind me and he is giving me the “Shut up. You are going to get arrested” look (I get that a lot). Now, there are three customs agents looking at my passport and letter and talking amongst themselves. FINALLY, my agent comes back…..stamps my passport….with added enthusiasm, shoves it back across the counter and gives me that “Get the hell out of Turkey” look. “GLADLY!!!”
I didn’t relax until our flight left the ground. I thought customs might just come to our gate and get me. Our flight was uneventful. We made it back to Dubai and then Baghdad. It was about five days from the time I got mugged until I got back to my office. Just to be on the safe side, I wanted to contact the credit bureaus and put fraud alerts on my credit reports. I also wanted to check my bank accounts and make sure they were OK. When I logged into my bank accounts I was stunned. Thousands of dollars were missing. I called my husband just to make sure he hadn’t bought something big without mentioning it. He said “No!”. I started going through our accounts. Huge checks were being sent out to someone in New York. I was enraged beyond words. Do not mess with my family or my money (and it’s not always in that order). I contacted Wells Fargo. They closed my accounts and put stop-payments on the checks. I was soooo lucky none of those checks had cleared.
Here’s what I think happened. After I got mugged in Istanbul I went to an internet cafe and logged into my account. They must have had a “keystroke logger” on the computer. It captured my bank name, user ID and password. They went into my account, then went into my BillPay and set themselves up as a payee. Then they wrote themselves checks to the tune of thousands. They almost cleaned out my savings. Had I been gone a few days longer, I could have lost it all.
Other than magor aggravation, I came through this unscathed and within four days Wells Fargo had opened new accounts and returned all our money. I learned a very valuable lesson. I NEVER NEVER NEVER log into my bank accounts using a public computer. A keystoke logger can be installed on any public computer and you wouldn’t even know it.
I wasn’t working in a hell hole war zone, away from my friends and family so some freakin’ thief could rob me blind. I hate thieves. If I have to work for it, they have to work for it. I’m not going to make it easy for them.
Well…..that’s “The Istanbul Mugging Story”. I know this was kind of long for a blog, but I couldn’t get it any shorter. I’ll try to do better.