Yeah, so, it hasn't been a very good afternoon. Though, curiously enough, it started out just fine. I'm theoretically on vacation, so I got up late, tracked a few things from home that I'd set in motion that needed to be tracked, then went to my office to pick up my stuff to go work out. (The gym is on campus, so it's easier to just leave stuff there.)
Just before I was about to go to the gym, I remembered that I'd wanted to check my account balance and to see if a couple of things had cleared. And there, in the middle of my pending charges, was something from
byersebooks.com Byers Ebooks, Mahwah NJ 201-258-5600
But ... I have never been to New Jersey, I have never charged an ebook with anyone but Amazon or Audible. So I did a bit of checking and ran across this:
Ebook websites, fraud charges, Devbill/DigitalAge/Pluto
There is far more here than first meets the eye!. digismarket.com and mfbpsite.com card fraud, are only the tip of the iceberg. They are just a fraction of a criminal operation run by a well organized, sophisticated, multi divisional, vertical crime syndicate. That conclusion is the result of tracking and analyzing this syndicate's operations for over two years. They have been running this large criminal enterprise for at least 4 to 5 years, if not longer. Most importantly, it is driven from routine unfettered access to consumer's card account data by this Eastern European crime syndicate....
[...] They are strictly a laundering vehicle used in an elaborate scheme to convert hijacked card data into cash, and shuttle it out of the country. A criminal conspiracy that has been operating successfully for several years.
Every single charge processed through any of these sites is fraudulent, There are no valid orders that originate from there. They are a front, set up exclusively to launderd hijacked card data into cash, and facilitate the removal of these funds out of the US....
[...] Credit for contributions for some of this discovery should be shared with two other individuals. However, they requested anonymity, once the full scope and extent of this criminal enterprise was realized, and who may be behind it. It was then clear that this entire multi year operation had to be driven by unfettered access to a continuous stream of card account data. At least one division of the crime syndicate presented itself as being based in Lithuania, however, the laundered cash from the fraudulent credit card billings was tracked going to a bank account in Bulgaria. I will go into greater detail later, first lets address the current crop of card laundering fraud sites:
A sample of some of the other current sites ran by this enterprise include:
byersebooks.com Byers Ebooks 201-258-5600 ...
[...] There are also recent reports about fraud card charges listed as Crystal Clear Designs, fabri-tex and Vin Designs. Other names surfacing are The Book Cellar Boston, Aslene Reads e-books, and Homebase out of CA . Other names now expired that were associated withthese fraud charges were treedonlainsite.com, Brookshire Enterprises brookshire-ent.com, and bestdigimart.com. It took some serious digging to discover who they really are, as these criminals go to considerable lengths to obfuscate themselves. Many of the names they pick will intentionally resemble legitimate entities....
[...] This crime syndicate clearly has unfettered and continuous access to volumes of consumer's card account data at the highest levels. They had access to this data 2 years ago, last year, this year, and they have access to fresh data today. This criminal enterprise has built a sophisticated process that has enabled them to retrieve at least 1,500,000 card data accounts annually, and remove an estimated $15,000,000 a year in laundered card fraud proceeds out of the country. However, the actual amount could be any multiple of that. If they have not laundered a charge through your card already, it is only because they did not retrieve that account data yet. Your card's prior history appears to have no relevance with respect to the odds of getting hit with these specific fraud charges. Also not relevant is the card issuing bank, the charges occur across a broad spectrum of card issuers. Neither is the fact that it is a debit (check card) or credit card, both are billed as CNP transactions, however, they do not have access to the debit pin numbers. Though primarily a Visa / Mastercharge phenomena, it also hits Amex and other card holders....
The net result is apparently that my account is being used to launder money for some crime syndicate in Bulgaria or Kazakhstan. I'm so thrilled, I can't tell you.
Here's one of the entertaining bits: it turns out that the bank, the lovely Chase no-longer-Manhattan (the First Chicago that was, four mergers ago), for reasons that I don't quite understand, are extremely reluctant to process this as a fraudulent
charge, rather than a disputed
charge, in part because the charge is pending. For reasons I really
don't understand -- apparently having to do with not wanting to verify ... something -- the bank won't halt a pending charge, fraudulent or not; they will only deal with a completed charge. (You'd think, if the charge was pending, that it would be easier to annotate the account and say "This charge will be blocked forever and ever amen." To stop the charge in mid stream, so that no money goes anywhere. But apparently not.)
Strangely enoughy, Byers ebooks has a surprisingly clean record with the Better Business Bureau in New Jersey:
Name: Byers Ebooks, Inc.
...The BBB processed a total of 7 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total of 7 complaints closed in 36 months, 7 were closed in the last year.
Billing or Collection Issues
BBB Definition: Billing or Collection Issues - Claim alleging billing errors, unauthorized charges, or questionable collection practices.
BBB Definition: Resolved - The company resolved the complaint issues.
5 - Company addressed the complaint issues. The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to the BBB.
BBB Definition: Unresolved - The company failed to resolve the complaint issues.
1 - Company failed to resolve the complaint issues through the BBB voluntary and self-regulatory process.
Refund or Exchange Issues
BBB Definition: Refund or Exchange Issues - Claim of alleged failure to honor company policy or verbal commitment to provide refunds, exchanges, or credit for products or services.
BBB Definition: Resolved - The company resolved the complaint issues.
1 - Company addressed the complaint issues. The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to the BBB.
Only 7 complaints. My.
In Washington State, however, we have an entirely different thing:
TIP NUMBER THREE: Questionable Debit Charges Showing up on Statements from Byers eBooks of NJ
People are reporting that they are receiving unauthorized charges of $4.95 up to $6.95 on their bank statements from the number: 201-258-5600 stating they are Byers Books. People are stating that they never did business with this company before, and when they contact their merchant card or bank, the bank says that the charge must first go through before they dispute it.
When the BBB calls this number, it state that they “mailbox is full.” So, there is no way to contact the company. Byers eBooks has the following contact information: 1303 Faulkner Ct, Mahwah, NJ 07430. Consumers report that they are not getting anything they know of from these charges, so the charge is questionable and has no product or service value.
We strongly suggest that if you have this charge on your card and you have not conducted business with this group before, to be pro-active and file formal complaints with the BBB of NJ as well as with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office as well as your own Attorney General’s Office.
It truly pays to check your bank statements regularly for such erroneous charges so you can dispute them ASAP. Also, be pro-active and file additional complaints.
I don't know if I'm going to go through the New Jersey BBB or not. It seems a bit much to ask them to resolve a fraudulent charge; after all, the "dispute" isn't that they charged me for a requested but undelivered service or item -- the "dispute" is that they had information to which they weren't entitled, that they charged me without authorization of any sort, and that in time and aggravation alone, it's going to cost me MUCH more than $6.95 to clear up everything. The "dispute" is that is some guy out on the net can figure out that this appears to be a criminal enterprise laundering money, why can't the BBB? (And, yes, it's entirely possible that the "guy on the net" has an axe to grind, and that poor Mrs Evans is just a techno-savvy widow, looking to make a little bit of extra money by selling ebooks computer to computer, battered by the many cyber winds, and she doesn't know how she got that information, and she didn't mean to cause such a problem over $6.95, really! ... yeah, I'm not buying that one, either.)
My guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that the charge is so small that a lot of people just miss it on their statements, or decide that it's not worth making a fuss over. Of course, that also means that the "company" knows that it can hit that card at least once more, for a larger number, until the owner says something.
The aggravating thing is that I had to close out my card, and it'll be a week before it gets here. I've got a few month-to-month charges on that card -- like my damn server
-- that are likely to bounce before I get the new card. It's only my (oddly enough) good luck that it didn't happen a month or so later, because then it would have caught my domains up in the mess as well.
I wonder how they got my information? According to that first linked page, it tends to hit people who haven't
used online sites more than those who have, those who come from brick-and-mortar places, except that the information used is too complete for those stores. (That would say to me that it's coming from inside the banks or processing clearing houses, actually. Which, given that we're talking about a syndicate, makes perfectly good sense. That said, I know that my information has been incorrectly handled at least twice in the past few months; once in the big TJMaxx/Marshall's fiasco from a year or two ago, and once recently with a health insurer that I no longer use -- that said, the insurer wouldn't, or shouldn't, have had my credit card information at all, let alone attached to my record.)
I wound up doing one of the annualcreditreport.com credit reports, which I hadn't done in far too long, just to make sure that nothing hinky was going on, and according to Experian, at least, nothing is. (Seriously. Blandest credit report ever. Except for the peculiar fact that Capital One has requested information on me for every single month through the past three years. I've only once ever succumbed to the lure and applied for one of their cards, and at that time, my credit was so mindnumbingly horrible that they actually stopped asking me if I wanted a card for about six months.) I figure that in a month or two, I'll check one of the other credit reporting sites, and then in another month or two after that, I'll check the third. Probably best to have them staggered out a bit.
So, needless to say, didn't actually get around to the gym today. My trainer will not be amused.