Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

I HAVE written sometime back about fraudulent transactions being perpetrated on my UK credit cards, with various retail outlets here. Back then, they were relatively small transactions, probably designed to evade the radar of detection of the card companies’ security measures.

This time, however, the perpetrators have decided to go for the big time.

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In January and February, my account was hit by fake transactions again, this time close to a million pesos in total amount. The fraudsters have decided to throw all caution to the wind and go for broke.

And where before they decided to perpetrate the transactions in lesser known establishments, the better not to attract too much attention, this time they have likewise decided to go high-profile on where they chose to shop.

More than 90 percent of the transactions were done at SM and Rustan’s department stores, and a great majority in one store alone, SM Makati.

From what I can make out, this is a well-organized racket going on, most probably originating from our own postal services. How I came to this conclusion is quite obvious.

The fraudulent transactions were all perpetrated on replacement cards sent to our Philippine address, in place of the ones we have, which were near expiry.

As we never received the new cards, it would not take a genius to figure out that they were hijacked along the way.

Random stealing of items inside postal mail is one thing, but the professional way in which the fraud was being committed seems to be something else. The theft of the cards from their envelopes is only step one of the entire process.

Cards normally come inactivated, as a security measure to foil postal theft.

But these fraudsters seemed to have been able to activate the cards, or how else would the transactions have gone through?

Huge single transactions in the hundreds of thousands of pesos could surely not be authorized on inactive cards, or so my simple understanding goes.

The fact that they were is probably indicative that the fraudsters were indeed able to get through the activation stage.

If only I had not been the unfortunate victim, I could probably “praise” the audacity and skill these thieves seem to possess. Not only were they able to intercept cards through the mail, they apparently also succeeded in getting past the card companies’ security systems.

As of this writing, I am still coordinating with the local retailers here and their card merchant, to try to get the perpetrators to justice.

It will not be an easy task, I know.

Thousands upon hundreds of thousands of transactions go through these retail establishments every day, and trying to trace a suspicious handful will not be without difficulty. But I am hoping I will have some cooperation.

Credit card fraud seems “tolerable” to our sensitivities, because it is like a “soft” crime.

There are no guns or knives involved, and no deaths or injuries recorded. The victim and perpetrator are remote from each other, so there is not even any guilt feeling by the perpetrator in seeing his or her victim suffer the consequences of his or her act.

More next week.

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