Maintaining two residences usually involves a bit of traveling and the use of credit cards. Much has been written about identity theft, but who would think this would one day affect yourself, especially since I am super-careful with my online transactions. But it finally caught up with me too. Somebody stole my credit card number and made purchases with or sold it to somebody who did.
Thank goodness, my credit card company found one transaction suspicious and called me to ask about it. Somebody was charging $600 at some retail shop in Germany. I was in the U. S. at the time. Checking my credit card account I found another transaction that wasn’t made by me. This was an online purchase of clothes for about $500. The charge in Germany was denied, and the online charge was returned to the store, as is possible under the terms and conditions between the bank and the merchant. So I got lucky and suffered no losses because the bank’s monitoring system picked it up quickly. I have a pretty high credit limit and I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t caught on to it so quickly.
The question arising from this now is how did somebody else get ahold of my number, plus expiration date, plus CCV? I normally don’t use my credit card except for travel expenses, e. g. airline tickets, hotels, etc., and I have only one credit card. So I was wondering where could it have happened. I traced my charges and could only find two transactions where somebody could have gotten the number. One was a hotel in Phnom Penh, where I paid the bill for a (trustworthy) friend of mine, and one was at the Taipeh airport where I made a telephone call.
So my suspicion is that somebody at the hotel sold the number to people who are in that kind of business, or somebody monitored the public phones at the Taipeh airport to glean the number that way. You have to type it in. So it’s very easy to see this with a pair of binoculars, or since those are too conspicuous, with a camera zoomed to the phone.
Now I don’t want to sound racist but everybody heard of the Nigerian scam spread by emails, which involves a letter from some high official or his/her relative who overcharged a contract and needs to get this money out of Nigeria or some other West African country. This usually is in the millions of dollars and they promise a cut of anywhere from 10 to 25%. It seems Nigerians are very crafty in all kinds of scams. I have noticed a sharp increase of Africans, and these are mostly West Africans, in Phnom Penh. So is there a connection between those Africans and the scams perpetrated from Cambodia? I heard from other people they do everything from pushing drugs to phone scams. That Swedish guy who got murdered and left by the roadside is another case in point. He met a Khmer lady online who turned out to be African. She and her boyfriend managed to relieve the Swede of his savings of about $50,000, which the fool carried with him in cash, or so the reports go, and subsequently killed him. At the beginning of December an African gang was arrested and 21,000 credit card data were found on their computer, probably mine among them. My fraudulent transactions occurred on Nov. 21 and Dec. 02. So how do those guys get the data? Do they hack into computers and monitor the credit authorizations, or do they simply bribe underpaid staff at hotels, restaurants, etc. to copy the data. I heard they pay about $5 - $10 per card. I am wondering whether all those Africans are involved in some kind of criminal activity; or what are they doing in Cambodia to begin with? I know there is the odd soccer player around and you have a number of embassy staff. But a couple of years ago you didn’t see this many African people on the streets here.
Whatever the case may be, you can’t be too careful.