This is just to say that I have received all your recent comments -- but for some strange reason I have not been able to make them appear on the blog, for the last day or so. I'm sure that normal service will be resumed soon So keep em coming.
I've had great advice (get some travellers cheques says Erika), some sympathy and lots of wonderful examples of much the same thing happening to others (a great story from Betty about the mother's credit card getting stopped as she did her pre-university purchases, and from Kathz about trying to buy a washing machine, and from Claire_M on being regularly stopped at the Rome supermarket checkout). Meanwhile Brian Ogilvie says that he has to notify his US bank every time he goes abroad -- and Boo is a bit dubious about telling anonymous people exactly when you'll be away). But you will get to see all this soon I hope. And more (including A Alcock on what to read on senatorial housing).
As an update on the fraud on my account: so far (cross fingers) there has been only that one withdrawal (though Anna's story about them trying a small amount first, then cleaning you out was a bit scary). I stopped the card first thing this morning, and in a belt and braces approach moved most of the money to my savings account... up to within just short of my overdraft limit. It'll cost me in overdraft interest, but if the money ain't in the account, it can't be removed is my logic.
On the plus side for the banking industry (credit where it is due), everyone I have spoken to at HSBC has been great. Indeed, when I asked to talk to my "relationship manager" (aka the excellent Karen T) ... I was phoned back within an hour by her colleague to say that she was off until tomorrow...and later (believe it ir not) the telephone banking service rang me to say that they understood that Karen was not in today and woud contact me tomorrow. Full marks.
I should say that my fraud at a mere 250 euros is a long way from the top of the HSBC queue.. and will be dealt with in due course (fair enough). I'm very glad, in retrospect, that I used the card as soon as I got to Heathrow on Sunday...as it proves beyond a shadow of doubt that I couldnt have been withdrawing cash in some Rome back street on Monday.