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1961 — Fullerton, Callifornia
In 1961 credit cards were relatively new. Department store cards had been around for a while, and the Diners Club card appeared in the early '50s. But you couldn't use them in a gas station. BankAmericard was the first that could be used for a variety of purchases, and I got one shortly after opening my small sign shop in 1959.
I had only had my card for a few months when I left it on a gas station cash register after having my car serviced. I discovered the loss as soon as I got back to my shop and immediately returned to the gas station to retrieve it. Well, nobody at the station could account for the card and assumed I had taken it with me. So I went back to the shop and called my local Bank of America to explain what happened.
Good thing I did - because I was not held responsible for what was subsequently done with my card.
Anyway, they issued me a new card, and I forgot about the incident, since I never again heard it mentioned by the bank.
However, about three months later a couple of serious-looking Jack Webb types came to my shop and identified themselves as being with the Monterey Park Police Department.
They showed me copies of some BankAmericard vouchers and asked if the signature on them was mine.
Well, it was my name, I agreed, but definitely not my handwriting. Then they asked the same question about some cancelled checks that had my name imprinted on them, along with my name on the signature line.
Again, I acknowledged the name, but denied the handwriting.
After a few more questions, they explained that whoever found my BankAmericard used it for a variety of purchases, as well as an ID for getting a driver's license in my name.
They went on to say the crook also opened a bank account in my name, and had checks printed with my name - along with a phony address - and then used my credit card and bogus driver's license as IDs for getting the counterfeit checks cashed.
Once convinced I had nothing to do with the thousands of dollars worth of purchases and fraudulent check-cashing that ensued, they thanked me for my time and went on their way. I never did hear whether or not they caught the identity thief.
But I learned a valuable lesson - if a credit card ever goes missing, call the issuing agency immediately and have it cancelled.
Here's a typical "phishing scam" email:
In 1959 when hen I opened my 2-person sign shop in Fullerton I called it Hi-Fi Signs, but changed it to Banner Sign Co. when we moved to Anaheim in 1963.
When I decided to open my own sign shop in 1959, obvious names for the business
would have been "Edrington Signs" or "Fullerton Signs" or maybe "Signs by Don."
But I wanted something different - a little catchier and more up to date -
so I settled on Hi-Fi Signs, since "hi fi music" was all the rage in those days.
However, it soon became apparent another name was needed as people
increasingly brought in their car stereos for repair and called
to ask if we installed sound systems in homes and offices.
The lady on the far left is my amazing daughter-in-law Alana Fugnetti,
who took over the business's management in the mid-1980s and who
made it possible for me to spend time learning about computers.