Sherry Hopkins Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 30, 2009

John Howell Sr.

More caution follows theft of identity for Playboy purchase

I looked at my bank statement online recently to discover that I had joined the ranks of those who have become the victim of identity theft.

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It showed deductions of $19.95 and $150 made the day before. I knew that I had not made purchases or payments or anything else that would have authorized them, so I called the bank.

The helpful young lady in bookkeeping told me that they were pre-authorized purchases made with my debit card.

Hmmm. had deducted the $19.95. Something called the Zynga Game Network had taken the $150.

There was a time when I spent much voyeuristic vain imagining before the pages of Playboy’s magazine. More recently when I’ve perused the pages of that magazine I’ve felt like a pedophile.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A phone call to the number that the bookkeeping lady gave me for resulted in the charge being removed instantly.

It hasn’t been so easy with the Zynga Game Network. The charge listed *TEXASHOLDEM on my account. My first call to Zynga led me to a person whose English meshed only occasionally with mine.

From the conversation I received a number — something to confirm the complaint I registered, I guess. He also told me, I think, that I would receive an e-mail within 24 to 48 hours detailing their investigation into the fraudulent use of my debit card.

Forty-eight hours later, having received no e-mail, I called again. This time I reached Spencer whose English was more compatible with mine. He assured me that I would receive an e-mail detailing Zynga’s investigation.

The next day, Lorenzo told me they were still investigating. When I asked to speak to his boss, Lorenzo told me it was against their rules for him to transfer me to a superior.

Spencer or Lorenzo — I forget which one — I learned that my $150 was used to purchase online chips for Texas Hold ‘Em. I had financed somebody’s losings.

The next day, I called again and waited on hold until I gave up. Same thing the following day.

Someone gained the information from my debit car, we have surmised, while it was out of my hands, perhaps when I used it in a restaurant or in some other setting where the debit card left my possession for a few seconds. It is doubtful that the person who copied that information made the transactions. The information can be sold on black market via the Internet, I’ve learned

When I spoke to a banker friend about it, I was mildly surprised to learn that he, too, had been a victim of a ruse via his debit card — someone got his information during a transaction and later small deductions began appearing on his online statement.

The lesson here is to closely guard your personal information, especially your debit card. The same speed and convenience that we have become accustomed in making cashless purchases instantly in person or online has its downside. There are a lot of dubious characters out there constantly seeking access to methods for diverting your money to their purposes.

It is wise to use the same technology in your own defense. Check your bank account online often. If you see something suspicious, call your bank.

If you call Zynga, tell Spencer and Lorenzo I said Hi.