Fraud

Year before last, a 350 some-odd dollar debit showed up on the bank account. Not my debit. It said “bn.com” on the bank statement. Barnes & Noble. I said to myself, What did I buy? Oh, I bought a book. In the store at Union Square. But it was more like 35 dollars. Call the store. What is the deal with this charge? They bump me up to a manager. I say, A mysterious charge has appeared on my debit checking banking Mastercard card. “Oh, sir, that’s a charge from our online store. Not from one of our locations.” Call the online store. It’s clear to me I did not make the charge. Nobody argues with that. The online store’s gray anonymous but cheery voice, with very little prompting, gives me all the details of the order. Three medical textbooks were ordered. Delivered to an address in Romania. “Bucharest,” she says. “That’s in Germany.” She gives the name, the address, the email address. Everything. I need only ask. Looking around the net, I find the email address. Seems like the person hosts a Quake club. Coupla of other places. Find linked addresses, same user. The name, it turns out, is a woman’s name. That doesn’t jibe. Call one of the service providers for the email address. It’s a free service. They tell me nothing. Call another email address provider. They tell me everything. I need only ask. Another name. Another address. A confirmation email address that matches one I had already discovered. All of this attached, somehow, to Romania. The new name is a male name. More like it. Send a message to all of the email addresses.

An unknown charge has appeared on my credit card, charged to bn.com. It appears that you are the possessor of three copies of the same medical textbook. I hope you find them useful. What’s the cracker/hacker scene like there, in Bucharest, anyway? How did you do it? And where did you have the books delivered to? A girlfriend’s house? I have canceled the card to prevent further unauthorized purchases, so don’t bother.

He replied.

“sorry. please don’t take it personally. i need the money!!!! i had them sent to my mam. please don’t bother her. it was easy to do!!! encrypted browsers mean nothing if they do not protect the informations when they get it. cracker scene here used to be small, maybe 100 or 200. now more like 6000!!!!! too many. good luck.”

Considered for a minute flying to Romania, showing up on his mother’s doorstep, and demanding my books. But the bank reimbursed all of it. And I figured, Why bother? And there is no international enforcement. What to do? Called the service providers. Explained. Faxed supporting documents from bank, bn.com, his email accounts, his response. All four accounts were shut down. I hope medicine improves in Bucharest.

Posted February 1, 2000

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