E-books, Credit Card Theft and Equifax
November 28, 2007 2:24 PM   Subscribe

"Chris Jupin never thought he'd create a firestorm when he wrote on his personal blog in September about a bogus $4.95 charge that appeared on his debit card. But traffic to his blog increased sharply, and hundreds of Web users chimed in saying, 'me too.' About half of them had something in common: They had recently purchased credit services from credit bureau Equifax." The charges -- mostly single ones for $10 or less -- are for "e-books" or other "online downloads." The Equifax connection -- coincidental and casual? Comments in response to yesterday's MSNBC "Red Tape Chronicle" post offer up experiences of others in the same boat.
posted by ericb (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
After having read the article, I immediately went online to check the one credit card I use for online purchases. Sure enough there was a bogus $11.95 charge for an online download from an unknown source. I called the credit card company. They said they'd open up a fraud investigation and get back to me. I was put on hold ... and moments later they said that they'd credit my account. I asked for any identifying information. They gave me an address for the source of the charge. Using Google Maps I pinpointed a house in a suburban development in California.

Most interesting -- I, too, have recently used that (now-canceled) credit card for purchasing services from Equifax. The only other vendors ever charged to that card have been Amazon.com, Apple/iTunes, Netflix and Verio.

Could it be that one of the "Big 3" credit monitoring services has had its customer data comprimised? Or, is this all just coincidental.
posted by ericb at 2:30 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is unusual for the fraudulent Web sites to issue refunds, however.

If they issue refunds, they're less likely to be exposed as a fraud to the credit card companies or authorities by the pissed off people. If they issue a refund, it seems like it might be an honest mistake to each individual.
posted by drezdn at 2:37 PM on November 28, 2007

Surely if one of the major credit bureaus has been compromised there will be hell to pay.

posted by polyhedron at 2:59 PM on November 28, 2007

Are you tired of being SILENCED ALL YOUR LIFE?
posted by dersins at 3:10 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Equifax is a scumhole. I can't sanely think of any reason a government would allow a company to both be a reporting agency on people's credit as well as facilitating and handling a variety of loans through subsidiaries. That just screams "conflict of interest" to me.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:35 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Um -- *compromised* *coincidental ?*
posted by ericb at 3:40 PM on November 28, 2007

I was briefly addicted to reading the website 800notes.com, where people post about and try to track unsolicited incoming phone calls. One of the most interesting threads was this one, in which dozens of people's checking accounts were charged, and the charges ID'd to a mysterious phone number. When called, the company said the charge was for, among other things, an "adult website," and they offered an immediate refund. I thought the adult website was a nice touch, like you might be too embarrassed to inquire further!

It seems to happen a lot. I don't know if you can blame Equifax.
posted by IcyJuly at 3:49 PM on November 28, 2007

This is why whwnever I pay forsomething online, I use a one-time-only web credit card. Your banks don't have this?
posted by signal at 3:55 PM on November 28, 2007

Me too.

I had this happen twice this year. Both times the processing company caught it and called me that they thought the charges were fraudulent. In both situations, the charges were all under $10 and from financial or credit related companies. Later, I got a letter from a company that processed credit card and debit transactions saying they had discovered a security breach and informing me my information had been compromised. (This was not the same company that had called me about the suspicious activity in the first place.)

Interesting, I too asked for information and it ALSO let to a house in suburban LA, just like ericb.

I couldn't figure the scam though. Why would someone order something with my card and deliver it to my house? All the products ordered were actual products and sent to my address. One even called with a follow up call to see if I got the information.

I'm not so sure about the equifax connection, mine were all from other companies, including Amazon.
posted by Mcable at 4:01 PM on November 28, 2007

posted by scalefree at 4:18 PM on November 28, 2007

I have such a fraudulent charge on the card I gave Equifax too.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 4:25 PM on November 28, 2007

On further reflection, about a year or two ago I ordered a credit report, probably from equifax.
posted by Mcable at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2007

"That's why ah never kiss'em on th'mouth!" - Jayne Cobb
posted by ZachsMind at 4:49 PM on November 28, 2007

Another Online Scam
posted by Exad at 5:17 PM on November 28, 2007

EricB, Mcable - Was the mystery address in Irvine?
posted by swell at 5:53 PM on November 28, 2007

Equifax is a scumhole. I can't sanely think of any reason a government would allow a company to both be a reporting agency on people's credit as well as facilitating and handling a variety of loans through subsidiaries. That just screams "conflict of interest" to me.

The mafia is trying to go legit.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:15 PM on November 28, 2007

"Surely if one of the major credit bureaus has been compromised there will be hell to pay."

Credit bureaus have been repeatedly compromised since the 1980s. Even in those days there used to be entire BBSes devoted to the subject of trading accounts on their systems of record and typed-in data recovered from bank and credit bureau dumpsters. I'd be astonished if such a thing ceased to exist in this age of easily compromised customer databases.

I have never considered credit bureaus to be havens of data security since seeing this stuff with my own eyes.

"Why would someone order something with my card and deliver it to my house?"

To verify that the stolen card is active before submitting more profitable, substantial charges to it.
posted by majick at 7:51 PM on November 28, 2007

The credit reporting agencies are one of the biggest scams going. Who profits from these agencies, other than the agencies themselves, and the banking institutions that make BILLIONS just on the more-than-occasionally *wrong* information that is posted to these agencies.

Example 1: You have excellent credit - you own your home and car outright, etc. etc - but neglect to pay for a magazine subscription that your 10-year-old mailed in, because you don't know about it. Your credit rating gets dunned.

So, you drive to the car dealer and see a car that you want buy. You tell the salesman about your excellent credit; he comes back to you saying "Experian (or Equifax, or Transamerica) rates you a "fair" credit risk; I'm sorry that we can only offer you 8.9%APR instead of our "good credit" rate of 5.9%.

So, that loan (let's say it's a $20K car loan, for 5 years) is going to cost you THOUSANDS more $$, for your $10 mistake.

You're screwed, for $10! No matter how many decades you paid every bill on time

Banks and credit card company billing strategists know how to MAKE you make mistakes.

For instance, many financial institutions change the color, size and shape of their billing envelopes with moderate frequency, knowing that some customers will think that the bill is a commercial mailer, or overlook it altogether. Nice way to collect 100,000 late fees that first month, no?

Stuff like this happens all the time.

Did you know that your overdraft protection credit card interest is billed on an average DAILY basis, and not monthly, as with most credit cards?

What does this mean to the consumer? It means that when you get your overdraft credit card bill, and *think* you're paying it off (even if you mail your full payment the same day you receive the bill) you're really not, because you are being charged interest *every day* from the day from the bill is mailed to you, until the payment is received. So, *even though you pay the bill off, next month you will have a small charge resulting from the interest that was billed in the "gap" between the time the bill was sent from the bank, to the time the bank received your (full) payment.

How many people don't even bother to open their overdraft credit card bill the month following their *full* payment, as stated on the last month's bill? A LOT of them.

This means that the following month(s) that they fail to open their bill envelope (assuming they have no debt, because they paid it off), they are charged *late fees* for the small charge they didn't know existed.

We are ripped off daily by these financial scum, and I, for one, would like to see someone pay for these egregious abuses of deceptive practice that plays with the ingrained expectations and established behaviors of consumers - by ever-so-slightly changing tiny rules that clearly are meant to trick people into making mistakes that cost them money, and end up sending MILLIONS of people to credit reporting agencies as "fair" and "poor" risks.

It's a crime, and a shame.
posted by MetaMan at 10:55 PM on November 28, 2007 [6 favorites]

signal, paying with dedicated discardable credit cards every time you buy something is just not practical and you know it.

MetaMan, thanks for the paranoia-inducing expose of practices in this particular industry, but people wouldn't dare breath if someone told them what's in the air.

Don't your banks offer mobile text sending whenever there is a transaction on your card? Ours do so I'd know if there was a fraudulent charge and could call the bank the next minute.

Credit rating, that thing we don't enjoy yet though, but this being Europe we can always trust our bureaucrats to protect us in some way whether we want or not.
posted by Laotic at 12:27 AM on November 29, 2007

signal, paying with dedicated discardable credit cards every time you buy something is just not practical and you know it.

Whenever I buy anything online, I go to my bank's website, create a one-time-only, 5-day validity virtual (no plastic, just numbers) credit card and use it.
How is that not 'practical'? I consider it essential, and would change banks if mine didn't offer it.
posted by signal at 6:45 AM on November 29, 2007

Oh, I also set the card's limit at the exact amount I'm spending. And the whole process takes like 30 seconds.
Quite practical.
posted by signal at 6:47 AM on November 29, 2007

signal: I do it too. It's very practical. Citicards even has an app that lives in the Windows tray that can quickly generate (after you login) a CC number. It's supposed to allow you to drag and drop the # into a form, but that never worked for me with Firefox.

Laotic, you are just plain lazy if this is not practical for you.
posted by e40 at 7:16 AM on November 29, 2007

I just received an email from Equifax's Senior Director
Global Threat & Intelligence. She mentioned that they are investigating the eBook scam. She, personally, received this month the same $11.95 bogus charge from the same source as I did. While disconcerting, at least I received a personal and prompt response.
posted by ericb at 7:47 AM on November 29, 2007

signal, e40, I see what you both mean, sadly, we don't have that service here yet.

Anyway, by practical I meant - I only shop at a handful of venues and I like them to keep my CC number for me so I don't have to type it in every time. You can call people names, but that is what practical means and credit cards were introduced to be practical.

When CC fraud becomes very rampant, the disposable numbers would become the only option, I guess.
posted by Laotic at 10:44 AM on December 1, 2007

CC fraud is rampant.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 PM on December 1, 2007

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