Identity Theft 101; Or, My Identity Thieves Were Stupid.

It all began at about 9:45 Saturday night.  We had gotten in from my great uncle’s surprise 75th birthday party, after a great evening with our crazy fun extended family.  The boys were in bed, and Zac and I were getting ready to snuggle up in bed with a movie.  A fairly typical Saturday night.

As I got into bed I checked my e-mail one more time before shutting down for the night.  I saw two e-mails from, letting me know that my recently purchased tickets for the Miami Heat vs. the New York Knicks game on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden were ready for download.  I also had two e-mails from Paypal saying that my recent purchase was pending.  Great!  Except that I don’t have a Stubhub account, I am not currently in New York City, I don’t give a flying fart about professional basketball, and I didn’t make those purchases.

I should mention that the total for these three basketball tickets was over $1,300.  For those prices I better be sitting next to Spike Lee or giving LeBron pointers on his jump shot.  Do people really pay that much to watch a professional basketball game?  I mean, we’ve lived in Atlanta for nearly seven years and have not been to one Hawks game.  If the prices for Hawks tickets are comparable, then I don’t see us ever darkening the door of the Highlight Factory.

I immediately went to Stubhub and attempted to log in to the account using my e-mail address and Paypal password.  Success!  What kind of idiot would use the same credentials as the account they hacked into to create the fraudulent account?  Nincompoops.  So I immediately changed the password so the thieves couldn’t get back into the account to download the tickets when the payment cleared.  I changed my Paypal password too, as well as any other password for every other account I keep online.  I called Stubhub and luckily they were still open for business since they are in California.  They immediately sent my issue to the fraud department, and I gave them permission to call me back any time during the night, as soon as they got to me.  Within 20 minutes they had called me back to let me know that they had disabled the fraudulent account and canceled out the purchase.  They also said they would communicate with Paypal to ensure the charges wouldn’t hit my bank account if for some crazy reason they ended up going through.  Whew.

Then I got on the phone with Paypal.  I told them the deal and they said they would cancel out the charges on their end in an abundance of caution.  I felt good enough about it to go to sleep, confident that I had covered all my bases and there was nothing else I could do.  And sure enough, shortly after midnight I had e-mails from both Stubhub and Paypal letting me know that refunds had been applied to my accounts.  Nice!  Great customer service from both outfits.  I felt like they took my concerns very seriously and did everything they could to get it rectified as quickly as possible.

At the suggestion of someone on my message board, I pulled my credit report on Sunday morning just to make sure that nothing looked suspicious.  Everything looked okay.  I need to get better about pulling my credit report; that was the first time I had ever done it, and I don’t need to wait until something bad happens to stay on top of it.  On the plus side, my credit report is really boring, so that’s good to know.

So, what did we learn?

I learned that criminals are pretty stupid.  I mean, using the same e-mail and password?  Bush league.  And Hacking 101 states that the first thing you do when you gain access to an account is change the password so the owner can’t get in.  Not that I’m any sort of hacker, but if I wanted to maintain control over someone’s account for any length of time I would change their password.  Maybe I have a bit of a criminal mind.  Well, not maybe.  Definitely.

I am also glad that I stay on top of my accounts like I do.  I like to know exactly where every bit of my money is at any given time.  I have e-mail and text alerts set up for my credit cards, I log on to the websites frequently, I check our bank account almost daily, and I have everything plugged into so that I can track our spending habits to see where we can shave down expenses if need be.  People might think I’m a little nutty, but my brother had his entire bank account emptied when someone got his debit card number from his wallet at the gym a few years ago, so I’ve been pretty vigilant about watching our accounts.

I am also also glad that I have a weird obsession with checking my e-mail.  It’s one of the drawbacks/benefits of the digital age.  But if I hadn’t happened to check my e-mail one last time on Saturday night, I wouldn’t have known about those charges, and they would have cleared and been pulled out of my bank account, the tickets would have been printed by the stupid thieves, and it would have made the refund process that much more difficult.  So I have my iPhone obsession to thank for that.

In summary, technology = GOOD.  Identity thieves = BAD.  And stupid identity thieves = FUNNY.  I wish I could have seen their faces when they figured out they’d been outsmarted.  HA!

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