Saturday, November 3, 2012

Can your bank track the use of a credit card in real time?

Whitney Heichel (DMV photo)

You bet it can, and in some cases that’s a good thing. The October 16th Whitney Heichel rape-and-murder case in Oregon was big-time news, at least on the west coast. Here are some details that did not appear in the front-page articles in the Oregon newspapers:

Whitney, 21,  said good bye to her husband Clint and left at 6:50 am to go her job at the local Starbucks coffee shop. At 8:30 am her boss called Clint to report than she had failed to show up. After calling friends to see if anyone had seen her, Clint called the police. However, he was informed that the police are not allowed  to look for anyone missing until 24 hours have elapsed.

STOP: If you were the husband and you knew your wife has disappeared, what would you do? What could you do?

The one advantage Clint had going for him was that both he and Whitney were Jehovah’s Witnesses, so his next call went to one of the elders in their congregation. At this point, some rules or laws were probably broken so I’ll called the elder “Vic,” the bank  “Third State,” and the bank employee Suzy.  Here’s what happened, and this is where the title of this blog will be tied in.

Vic asked Clint where they banked, and Clint told him "Third Bank."  Clint happened to know Suzy, one of the officers at that bank, so he raced over, explained the extreme urgency, and had Suzy ignore Third Bank’s privacy rules. Sure enough, someone had filled up with gas miles away, using Whitney’s credit card.

Clint and Vic raced to the gas station, explained the urgency, and were allowed to view the security tape. It showed Whitney’s vehicle pulling out of the station, with a man's arm sticking out the window. Vic immediately called a Witness with search and rescue experience and asked for help. Within a few hours, hundreds of volunteers were doing an organized search pattern of the area. By the time the police entered the search on the following day (Wednesday), the Witnesses had already found Whitney’s jacket 12 miles away.

On Thursday, Whitney’s uncle Scott was in a car group that decided to search the road that leads up to Larch Mountain, in the Cascades. They stopped at aisle marker 10 where they spotted tire marks on the side of road, some broken glass and a bent up license plate lying in some tall grass. It was Whitney’s license plate! Scott knew the county sheriff so he immediately called him.

To keep this story short, the body was found and the alleged murderer is now behind bars, awaiting trial. Here are two lessons to keep in mind, should you, a family member, or a friend are ever be caught in a similar emergency situation.
1.  Since the police will not enter the case of a missing adult for 24 hours,  if you are a member of a closely-knit group such as JWs, Adventists, or LDS, call for help! If not, round up workmates, relatives and friends. 

2.  If you know where the missing person banks, make a frantic appeal to one of the officers to ignore the bank’s just this one time. "Rules are made to be broken."


  1. Discover Card can track not only purchases in real time, but also purchase attempts. I loaned my card to my son for gas when he traveled to Florida last month. I'd forgotten about Discover's fraud department's vigilance - they called the first time a purchase was attempted and I authorized it. It's comforting to know that if something had happened to him, I could have followed the card usage if that had become an issue. The flip side of that coin, is, of course, pay cash if you don't want that kind of tracking. - Arkansas Woman

  2. Heads of Household, call a family meeting now.
    Pragmatic talking points follow:

    1. The actuaries say you'll probably be fine - stay alert, but don't worry.

    2. Regardless of local laws, you have a moral obligation to protect yourself, your family, and those around you - but your survival comes first.

    3. You must fight any attack on your person. Injure your attacker.

    4. You must believe an attacker is serious when they tell you their plan. (It will come in the form of threats.) But remember you can and should disrupt their plan.

    5. Draw attention to the situation, loudly. Scream "No!", "Fire", "Murder", "Rape", "Help", whatever. The attacker's name, if you know it, is a fine thing to add to the alarm call.

    6. You can survive blunt-force trauma, edged weapon attacks, and wounds caused by bullets/buckshot. TV and movies do not accurately reflect the consequences of encounters with the above. It'll will hurt, you'll probably survive. You will heal, there may be scars.

    7. If a weapon is displayed you should assume it is intended to be used.

    8. If a weapon is drawn/pointed at you, you are in the presence of a fool and (regardless of how they are dressed) you can reasonably assume your life is in danger *and* you should protect yourself with deadly force.

    9. It's never too late; if an attacker promises you imminent demise and they expose their softest parts to you - use your fangs and claws to deform or permanently disable those parts. DNA is reasonably useful these days.


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