Monday, 17 March 2008

Attack of the (Card) Clones

I must confess that I have been rather blase about online banking crime, thinking that I had not enough funds to particularly interest people. In fact, as regular readers will know, I have been exasperated by how difficult it is now to buy anything online given all the checks and counter-checks you have to go through. Last week, though, I was robbed, not fully electronically but partially. My debit card was cloned and then my account was drained by people making cash withdrawals in Sri Lanka. Fortunately it was mid-month and there were not huge sums in the account and the level of the currency in Sri Lanka is so high that small amounts here look big there, for example just over £9 works out as LKR 2,000 there. So my bank picked it up very quickly. The main problem is now with me going on holiday next Tuesday (so expect a dearth of postings for a week and a bit) and the bank holiday this Friday and the following Monday I will not get my new card or my money restored before I go away. This is typical for me, such things always happens when it is the hardest for me and the authorities to deal with them. Fortunately I had filled up with petrol and groceries before they closed my account, because the problem for me now is for about 10 days not being able to get hold of my own money. Fortunately I have some cash in the house and ironically as a consequence of this incident I am likely to ensure I have more cash in the house. This might make me a greater risk from burglars but means that if something goes wrong with my debit card I am not stuck without food or petrol.

I reported the incident for the police, because though I have no evidence I have my suspicions as I only used my card twice in the 48 hours before the money was taken out. Once was at a Shell service station and last year Shell stopped chip & pin transactions for a number of months when it was found £1 million had been stolen by staff from its customers. The second time was in a convenience store and you can guarantee I will never shop there again and walk the distance to the bigger supermarket. I was suspicious of the shopkeeper's behaviour at the time and now regret being too embarrassed to simply walk out. Chip & pin in which signing for things was replaced by a PIN number was supposed to save us from all these things, but of course whereas getting a signature needs them to rifle through bins or video you signing, a PIN number can just be caught by a machine and then, as in my case, zapped to the other side of the world to be used.

One thing I was heartened by was that my bank treated me very well. A colleague of mine who lost over £1000 was questioned at length about her movements, I think because she is an American citizen of Asian background. They also challenged her whether her husband could have taken her card and abused it, he is of African extraction, so I do there was a degree of racism going on in her case. Banks must recognise such crime is so common and I cannot really see how me or my colleague could have headed it off. The businesses we dealt with seemed legitimate but clearly were staffed by criminals. These days we should be believed as it is hard enough suddenly having your life thrown into chaos by having all your money disappear, without also being seen as partially a suspect yourself.

Apparently my bank was sending me a new 'high security' system, which has arrived as I am writing this. It is a keypad into which I have to put the card to generate yet more numbers. I think ironically, despite more and more electronic security which is probably already subverted before I receive it, I see many of us going back to hard cash, trusting to our strength and concealment skills to keep that away from physical robbers rather than relying on electronic means that we seem to have no chance to really properly defend. So today's posting exits to the strains of 'Dirty Cash' by the Adventures of Stevie V:

I've no excuse,
I just want you to use me
Take me and abuse me
I got no taboos, I'll make a trade with you
Do anything you want me to

Money talks, money talks
Dirty cash I want you, dirty cash I need you,

Of course these days you can get that as a download ringtone for your mobile phone.

No comments: