Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I hate to sound paranoid, but recently we put cash in a Forest Service Campground fee pipe and it came up missing. A ranger came around to collect from us and we showed him our receipt. He said there was no matching envelope in the pipe. After convincing him that we had paid, he took our word and honored our receipt.
Now every time I put money in one of those seemingly secure fee pipes I worry about it. Do you think I am being silly? We do this all the time and my husband says, "Get over it!"
--Nervous Nellie in Nevada
Believe it or not, crooks with low aspirations have learned to fish envelopes from fee pipes. If you talk to a few host volunteers you will hear stories of string and gum, coat hanger fishing and super glue tangling.
Fee pipe security is really not your problem. Pay your fee, keep your receipt and leave crime solving to management. I am sure the ranger who talked with you has dealt with this problem in the past and will again in the future.
When dropping cash, check or charge card info into those pipes, you now know they could end up in the wrong hands. If it would help you sleep better, try using checks. Most low-level
crooks, trying to support a meth habit, won't deal in checks, they want
hard cash. But for security reasons, cash is probably your safest bet.
Pipe heists are probably very uncommon, but caution is advised.
We always look the fee pipe over very carefully. Fake fee pipes have been used by crafty crooks. We also eyeball gas pumps for card readers that have been placed in the credit card slot to steal information.
Having your card info ripped off is much more of a problem.
It happened to us in North Central Florida this winter. By the time we figured it out, the bad guys had pumped three hundred bucks worth of gas, Simonized their vehicle, ate at McDonald's and then celebrated with a stop at a liquor store.
The card company removed the charges from our account, but we were without a credit card for awhile until they issued us a new one.
There is a difference between paranoid and cautious.
Two out of every five people suffer from paranoia. The other three are watching them suspiciously.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink