Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shopping Haulers, Part 2

Well, it seems that today we get to talk about another kind of shopping hauler. This shopping hauler is not of the cute and slightly precocious tween/teen type. This shopping hauler is of the evil, insidious criminal type. Specifically, this is the person who decided they needed to start using my debit card!

I should start out by saying this has never happened before. I have never had my wallet stolen, my identity compromised or my card numbers used. Of course, in my last job I heard about and tried, with limited success, to fight it. I sat in on meetings with banks talking about the millions of accounts compromised when the Hartford credit card processing company was hacked. I heard about investigations of gas station account number scammers. I talked to countless victims. But somehow I was personally unaffected.

Until yesterday that is. I got a call from a company hired by my debit card bank to suss out criminal charges on their cards. They wanted to check to see if I had been making some purchases. Specifically a purchase at Walgreen's in Indiana. Come on Mr Criminal. You can be a little sexier with my card than a $62 purchase at Walgreens! It seems that this fraud finding company has some pretty good algorithms, because, as far as I can tell, Mr Criminal only got away with a $34 charge at 'speedway', the above mentioned charge at walgreens, and a $1 test charge at some online store (that is probably right before he was about to go really crazy). And I must say I am mighty thankful, as this was a debit card Mr. Criminal is taking money directly from my checking account.

My actual debit card, of course, is nestled comfortably and safely in my wallet right where it belongs. And it's a funny crime, because it feels so personal, this person is stealing money directly from my account and me, but it is SO impersonal. Who knows where my account number came from? I know I've never seen the person who used it or stole it. I don't enter it online much, but maybe I paid for something cyberly and someone got it there. Maybe (probably most likely), there was an account number capture device attached to some gas station pump I used. Maybe a restaurant worker took it. Or again a little piece of scandalous plastic was attached to a restaurant register to capture my number. And most likely, Mr. Criminal who used my card didn't actually steal my number. That was a different Mr. Criminal. Mr. Criminal #1 probably purchased my account number from one of the many websites that sells compromised account numbers and, if they are lucky, names addresses and pin number. (The prices for a stolen charge number varies, depending on the amount of data that comes with it.)

Anyhow, it could have been much worse. I am very thankful my criminal was thrifty! I would offer sage advice, but I don't know what one could do aside from never using credit cards. With account numbers flying around the cybersphere ripe for the picking, this is only going to keep happening with increasing frequency. Maybe some day, we will all have some secret code attached to our person, and only we can unlock our account number. Until then, the criminals will keep winning this game.