Picture, if you will, a busy dad who has always enjoyed the concept of video games but rarely gets the time or money to really play them. He is innocently frazzling his way from one everyday hassle to another as we join his story, already in progress…
Around March 15 or so, I got a message from American Express saying there was a charge on my card that they suspected may be fraudulent. “It’s just one charge for a dollar,” the guy said. “Just a test charge to see if the card works. Probably some chump testing the waters before he really takes you to the cleaners.”
“Well, we’d better cancel the card,” I said, and he agreed. We hung up and that was about it. Later in the day I mentioned this to my wife Michelle, and she asked if they’d said anything about fraud on her card (a different card number on the same account). The guy hadn’t, so she decided to just log on to the AmEx website to have a look.
(Side rant: the AmEx website requires you to pick a password of at least six characters and no more than eight characters…wtf??! I’m definitely in favor of trying to enforce a minimum length, but a maximum length? And a max that is just slightly more than the minimum? As Lt_Dan is fond of saying…INFERIORITY!)
Michelle found that the guy on the phone was off by just a bit…there were more fraudulent charges. A whole lot more.
In all there were about 610 individual charges, nearly all going to Blizzard.com or World of Warcraft. Each one was for somewhere in the neighborhood of $20, which I take it is the price of a month’s subscription to the game. Some of the charges were in euros and pounds sterling. My credit card has traveled more extensively than I have…no fair! 😉 There was also one charge to some other website, but I never did try to figure out what it was, for fear it was something I didn’t want to see, at least not at work where it could get me in trouble.
The total dollar amount was about ten thousand two hundred dollars, racked up at around twenty dollars a pop, over the course of eight days. DANG! That must be one FUN game! I’ve never played it myself (looks and sounds like way too much of a time sink, and apparently costs $20 a month), but it does look like it could be entertaining (especially if some anonymous sugar daddy is footing the bill).
So I called AmEx again and talked to someone in the fraud department. They put me on hold while they marked the fraudulent transactions…which meant I was on hold for about 10-20 minutes. 🙂 Anyway, I figured that was that. A new temporary replacement card was on its way to me.
Side note–this was an AmEx card issued through Costco, which means the card also carries my Costco account number and a picture of me snapped at the Costco a couple miles from my house. This makes it very convenient to run up an AmEx balance at Costco since you can prove your membership and pay for the massive cartload of mostly unneeded stuff with only one card. Anyway, due to the need to re-get this info from Costco, it was going to take a couple of weeks to get the REAL replacement, hence the “temporary” replacement card.
The temp card arrived, and I called the number on the sticker that was stuck to the front of it. The robot told me there was some trouble activating it. I called the humans and they said the card had been reported as stolen. “What? It just got here!” I said. Apparently someone got a little confused when setting up the replacement and accidentally marked the replacement card stolen too! OK, well, accidents do happen…so another temporary replacement card was sent my way. This did arrive un-stolen, and I activated it without incident.
A couple of months went by and we waited for the fraud department to complete their investigation. The next AmEx bill that arrived was in an extra-large envelope because there were like 99 pages, too many to fold up and mail in a regular envelope. Entertaining, but still a little unsettling. We were wanting to sell our house and buy a new one closer to my work, and with us wanting to get pre-approved for a mortgage, we didn’t want this big wad of fakery showing up on our credit report.
Michelle called the fraud department a few different times and eventually did get someone to give her some quality time and get the fraudulent charges properly marked (apparently the first person or two didn’t do it right). Finally we could hit the AmEx website and not see hundreds of international hax0rs playing WoW on our dime.
A few weeks later I finally got around to installing the new version of Quicken that had been hanging around on Michelle’s desk for a month or so. When I had it do the automated account update where it retrieves stuff from the banks over the net, guess what got downloaded from AmEx’s servers. 610 fake charges. WTF???!! They are still in our Quicken to this day, because apparently you have to reject them from the downloaded batch ONE AT A TIME. Gag! I’d almost rather accept the charges!
When we got pre-approved for our next mortgage (still only a pre-approval…anyone wanna buy our house and let us do it for real??) they gave us a copy of our credit report that they pulled, and the fakery did show up! Luckily it wasn’t enough to make the mortgage folks care, and as I understand, that last AmEx dude, the one that knew what he was doing, is getting the charges pulled off our credit report.
Somewhere in the middle here Costco made me get a new card from their membership counter because the cancellation of my AmEx card also triggered cancellation of the Costco account number. They took a new picture and everything.
OK…what next…a couple of weeks ago I was getting ready to order something through my work with my employee discount. (The real estate agents helping us sell and buy are a sweet older couple, my dad’s cousin and his wife, and she was getting him a surprise Father’s Day gift.) I was using an older form to do this and just changing the values. It had my old AmEx number at the bottom since that was what I used last time…oh yeah, those numbers will be wrong by now! So I pulled the new (still temporary) replacement card out of my wallet and started transcribing. Ummm…wait a minute…the expiration date on this is like two months ago. Hey, where’s my REAL replacement card?
After a call to AmEx, speaking with someone who seemed to be having a cruddy day causing her to imply strongly that my own lameness was the cause of my trouble, I got another temporary replacement sent, with a real replacement to follow.
The temporary replacement arrived a few days later, and just last night, the REAL REPLACEMENT CARD ARRIVED, with my picture on it and everything.
HOORAY! The nightmare is over! Thanks to persistence from me and my wife forcing them to do their jobs, AmEx finally pulled through! I can use my card again, even at Costco! No more worrying about my accidental generosity to 600 geeks playing World Of Warcraft!
…except I DO still want to see a credit report that doesn’t include the fraudulent balance…and my Quicken DOES still have 600-some-odd charges that I’m going to have to decline one at a time…