Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Identity Theft or something evil like that!

It's one of those things you never think will happen to you until you pull up your bank account online and you heart jumps into your throat and your stomach flips because there are unauthorized charges on your debit card.

Yes, this is what I was greeted with yesterday morning when I was on the phone with hubby and I was checking our bank balance online to see if some recent transactions had cleared yet. There it was:

$ -25.00


$ -25.00

I said to Trevor, wait a minute, there are two charges here I don't recognize. He didn't recognize them either and I was proud of him for not freaking out or blaming me as might have been the case in the past. I said I'd take care of it and promptly googled AIM CALL OUT to discover it was some AOL Instant Messenger Internet Phone Service and apparently someone bought two $25 prepaid services on our debit card. I called the bank to deactivate our card immediately and re-issue a new one. This was no problem but cost us $5, lovely! Next, I called the phone number associated with the transactions, sure enough AOL answered...well I should say the automated, voice activated peice of crap with no options to apply to my problem answered and after several attempts to get a breathing, functioning human being I did finally get someone who informed me these charges were for a premium service, AIM Call Out and she would transfer me to that department and give me the number. That department, although happy to help me, told me to call back in 3 hours because the system they could check the transactions in was being update. Fine...ugh! I was given a tracking # or whatever so they could pull up my issue next time I called so I didn't have to start from the beginning (but I did basically repeat everything anyway later).

So, I called again yesterday afternoon when I was home and talked to a very nice guy who processed a form requesting a refund, no hassle, no problem, etc. I was expecting a battle to be quite honest. I asked if they could tell who did this but he said no, that since my debit card was used it is just associated with my name and that's it. Grr, I'd love to find out who the butthead is who stole our debit card number!(I have stronger words in mind but I'm trying to keep it clean)

I was telling my mom today that although we do shop online, it's mostly with Ebay using Paypal, Amazon, BMG, etc. These are all trusted sites, and if I shop on other sites, I always look for the little lock at the bottom of the page, look for the trusted site logo, all of that stuff. I feel more like I trust online transactions rather than "real world" transactions. The only thing I can think of though where we use our card other than online is hotel stays. We don't typically use our card for anything else so maybe it's some idiot at a hotel that saw a credit card number on something and decided to try using it.

So, we'll likely never know how our card details were compromised so I'm not sure I have any lesson learned in all this other than maybe being sure to be more careful to check website security when we shop online. It sure is a creepy feeling! This was only my debit card, not my whole identity so I can imagine how scary it is for someone who ends up with a larger mess. I checked today and no more transactions came through so hopefully we caught it quick enough, if we hadn't checked our balance online like we do every day who knows if the butthead would have tried to charge something more pricey!

So, just a note to be careful with your credit/debit card details!


Mert said...

Man that stinks! I am pretty @nal about checking our online balances, but I think there are probably a lot of people who don't and that's why these thieves get away with it. The thing that scares me is that there is no signature needed at some places like fast food for purchases under 50$ when a debit/credit card is used.

My husband had us on auto pay for vonage and they kept charging us even though we told them to cancel our service. The person he talked to said he had to call back and talk to a manager.. John forgot, but they could have stopped the auto pay and of course John forgot to do that... when I took over the finances I saw the 20$ monthly charges on the account. They were still charging us 5 months after we tried to cancel, and John didn't eve know. 100.00 down the drain. They refused to give us our money back even though he told them what had happened. I was so mad!

I hope you can get it all squared away, that's just nuts! We just switched to another bank, I guess I better check and see if they have a protection plan of some sort.

Anonymous said...

Mert's right, even at the pharmacy, where my prescription is 40$, I don't have to sign. Most places don't even look at your card! I can see why you're more worried about "real world" transactions.
I'm glad you got polite assistance with your problem, too. So often, a lot of those companies give you the runaround. It's like they think that if they give you a hard time, you'll just go away and forget that they didn't refund your money, etc.

Ambitious Blonde said...

Oh duder, that sucks! I always heard you should be careful about online debit card useage because they're easier to steal from than a credit card. I figured it was paranoia, but now I'm wondering if it might be truer than i gave it credit for.

At least you caught it early and got it squared away right away though. Here's hoping there's no more butt headed thievery on your accounts!

crazy working mom said...

Very wise words! :)
Thanks for the warning.

Ginamonster said...

Oh my goodness! I am so sorry that happened to you! I'm glad you got it all straitened out though. I'm always seeing odd transactions, but it always turns out to be me.

Anonymous said...

My Costco Amex card got hit by the same scam. Strange thing is that I never activated and never used the card. 1. This tells me that AmEx's "can't be used until activated" gives me a false sense of security.
2. The card number was either "guessed" or stolen from a very small number of suspect organizations (since I've never given the card # out).

Alex B.

Not So Anonymous Michelle said...

Anonymous, that's so weird since you had a card which was not even active! Wow! It was a scary situation and I'm glad AOL was good about refunding us!

Stephen said...

Hi, Michelle. I was googling AIM Callout because the exact same thing happened to me. I mean, almost to the T. I have two transactions in the amount of $25 each made on 12/25 labeled TWX*IIA AIM CALL OUT... I had to get a new account number. It's just a little fishy that the transactions look identical. It makes me wonder if this is a larger scam than we realize. Well, I wish you the best. Take care!

Stephen said...

It looks like we're not lone victims of this fraud. I found this question posted on Yahoo:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

This happened to me also. Its a pain. I had the card locked up when this occurred. I'm guessing that there's some file on an online website which we're all using that's not very secure. Probably some moron got access to the info.

Does anyone know if the credit card fraud departments work with the authorities?

Anonymous said...

it gets worse....just happened to me today and also googled it and found several more that got hit. One guy got his Bank of America debit card hit. I use a small credit union and got hit for $24.00
cancelled the card this morning also. Geez...what a lowlife to do this stuff to people....

Anonymous said...

Same $25 fee on AIM Call Out happened to me 2/03 on my credit card.

Except I don't use AOL, this is an absolutely new credit card, which was issued to me after my other online credit card # was picked up and used for fraudulent charges.

Chase Bank responded to my call, I am disputing the charge and they are handling it, I will pay my credit card minus that charge.

The bank guy thought it was accidental; seeing the # of people responding makes me doubtful of that.

The moral, as others have said, is always check your statement.


Anonymous said...

This happened to my wifes card as well and she never used it online. So i started looking online and found some info. I guess it seems twx (which is part of Trilegiant) is a company that a lot of banks use for certain services like identity theft protection plans. So this company gets your info through the bank. So you need to let your bank know that you do not want your information shared with other companies they work with.
just google twx trilegiant and see all the identity theft stuff going on. It is real scary.

Anonymous said...

found this through a google search...TWX is a TIme Warner holding company. If you EVER and I mean EVER said yes to a "Free" 3 month magazine subscription, any time you use a debit card machine, like at a McDanald's to buy food...and that machine is owned by a Time Warner holdings company..look out. It is not the bank giving this info out. I got a free Borders card and WHAM got charged for a re-newal (which i had canceld years ago) for a magazine i had in 2001!!!! TWX is the Devil. Good luck to you and be vigilant about waht you agree to and where you use your debit card!
-michelle (sorry its so long-- i am so mad at these people and you got hit too)

Anonymous said...

Hello Fellow Fraud Victims!

I, too, had this charge on my credit card account for $10 on March 5, 2008. I also got two phones call from the company to confirm that I had really ordered the card. When I spoke to them, it sounded like they were aware that there were fraudulent charges by then. Since they called and knew my name and email address (although it was one letter off), it was evident that more than just the name and credit card were taken. I cancelled the card and figured that somehow the "theft" had occurred online. I'm fairly careful about who I buy from online, but do make purchases (largely Amazon and computer parts).
Then, like a dope, I used a different credit card to buy something from Amazon and that card got blocked immediately and we got a call that the same fraudulent charge had been made.
At that point, I began to strongly suspect that the laptop I was using had a trojan keylogger program that was logging my information and sending it back to criminals. After using 5 different programs to find spyware and viruses, I found the program and deleted it. I then installed firewalls that won't let "outgoing" traffic without authorization. The program that finally worked for me (after Spy Sweeper, Norton Antivirus, AdAware, and Spybot did not find it) was Remove Startup Programs Buddy which shows you what programs run at startup on your computer. You can google any that look suspicious (e.g., no company name, not a program you put on the computer) and see if they are legitimate programs.

I suggest anyone who had these charges download and run this (free) program to see if you have a trojan program. I found the program recommended on a web site dedicated to finding spyware and viruses. Here are the URL two such sites:
Good luck to all. If anyone else finds a trojan, do post so we can all learn if that is the culprit.