Have you ever played Grand Theft Auto video games? If you have you probably stole a car – hence the name. You have to if you want to get from home base to a mission location before next Christmas. Sometimes, you steal a specific car so that you can be accepted by group or to hide from another group; you’re profiled by groups in the game.
This is what I thought about when I received an email from Bank of America about a suspicious charge on my credit card: how do I know the email is from the real Bank of America. It had the appearance of very clever spoof, and I had never seen email like that from BOA. So, it was a predicament, should I accept the email at face value and allow it to pass through or should I attack. What made it worse, BOA locked my access to their web site (SOP after this kind of incident). I was really freaking out. I thought someone could have compromised my account, stolen my identity and could do untold damage. I had a zero balance so they might have stolen everything.
I played a clever hand. I looked up the 800-number on the main Bank of America web site. It was not the same number as the one in the email which only confirmed my spoof fear. I went through a little cloak-and-dagger routine over the phone trying to prove my identity.
“What is you card number?” the guy on the other end asked.
“You tell me” I retorted. Then I thought about how dumb that sounded and gave up the number.
I’m not sure why – call it terrorism-phobia or whatever – but it was a little disturbing talking to an Indian or Pakistani male about my credit card information. When I was giving him my card number red flags were going off in my head. I was more at ease when he switched me to an American sounding female who only asked for short versions of private information.
Turns out it was not a spoof. Someone had successfully authorized my card number for a $108 charge at a Walmart in Florida. When they tried to charge another $158 – probably at the same Walmart – Bank of America caught them. They denied that charge.
End result, BOA reversed the $108 and they are starting fraud investigation against the person(s) responsible. As soon as they refunded the charges, BOA canceled my card, and I canceled BOA.
So, identity theft is real, and it’s closer then you think.