I’ve been absent from Fish Wrap for several weeks, my small school of fish and I have been busy relocating to a larger aquarium. I’ve been moving from dawn till until well into the nighttime hours, my Darwinesque feet are so sore that they scream when I stand on them… I should have stuck with the tail. What can I say, evolution, it happens.

The reason the move was so tough was because we own an on-line bookstore called Madeline West Online which has a library of about 3,000 books. We own a second library of about 1,500 books that are unappraised and not yet listed for sale. When I move it’s like having to move twice because there’s the entire household that has to be transplanted then their is a fully operational bookstore complete with our own little post office operation that has to be transported as well.

During our transition from Little Falls to Royalton our little website suddenly saw an increase in the number of orders coming through. We also noticed something else; a host of fraudulent transactions that prompted conversations with the FBI and the Secret Service … gulp. Here’s what I learned.

Those who steal credit cards numbers don’t need your personal information…although it probably helps. They have computer programs that “tumble numbers” changing a couple numbers in the sequence until that hit a legitimate credit card number and BINGO!

Essentially, they’ve been using my website by adding books to their shopping cart then running potential card number sequences until they find one that makes it through processing.  To date they haven’t found one that works…  they’ve struck pay-dirt on at least 12 different Visa credit cards. The only reason I knew they weren’t legitimate orders was because the name and shipping addresses consisted of the letters sfd sdf. The country of origin on 11 transactions was Australia the other was from somewhere in Denmark.

I’m relieved that there was no real name or address because I may have never realized that the transactions weren’t legitimate and would have shipped the books out only to end up having the payment for the books reversed by the credit card company. I would have lost my inventory and found my self repaying Visa for the fraudulent charges. Who ever is running the scam wasn’t processing small orders either, they were placing orders for rare books purchasing 200.00 dollars worth of inventory per transaction. The grand total of fraudulent credit card transactions rests at about 1,200.00. 

Following yesterdays conversations with the Secret Service, I have since contacted my website company and requested that they block the thief’s IP addresses to prevent them from using my website to try and come up with additional card numbers. I am sure they will have no problem locating a new host who will jump through the same learning curve of hoops I did in an effort to figure out how to respond and who to talk to.

What I’ve learned from the whole experience is that, as a consumer, it helps to be careful with your credit card information but ultimately our attempts at credit card security may not even be a factor. The Secret Service said that number tumbling isn’t done by someone sitting a computer, rather it is a computer program that runs number sequences. Which means that stealing for these individuals is like playing a game of Bingo or the lottery. Based on the ratio of failed processing attempts on my website, their odd of hitting a legitimate card number appears to be about 5 to 1.

That having been said, check your credit card statement every month …like clock work.

Splashing on Sunday,

Olive Rockfish