Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for several days. Not the classic, but the George Harrison version. The title is all that’s particularly applicable to me right now, but it’s still a good song.

One day last week as we were set to travel,  I woke to unauthorized credit card activity.  I was fortunate to discover the issue quickly when Costco sent me an email cheerfully alerting me that $800.00 in goods would be arriving that day. Not to my address, of course, but to someone in Ontario, California named Thomas Hines. Thomas was receiving a very expensive gift courtesy of my unauthorized generosity.

What a day to jump into the fray, but I’ve untangled these messes before. Hasn’t everyone?

Two years ago someone hijacked my eBay account and ordered heavy winter clothing and had it shipped to Russia. On top of the headache of establishing that these weren’t my charges, all of my on-line information had been changed to Russian. It took a long time to even figure out how to close the account.

So the song.

My attention has been entirely split. Online fraud is a devil we live with, and while monitoring my email and involved sites over several days, we also had the awesome privilege of spending time with family, sharing the sights of a beautiful city.

The photos contain strong hints about our whereabouts. I’ll return to share more about our travels after my focus returns.


We are home now, and as I continue to change all of my passwords and also investigate and report all the crazy activity–the phishing expedition resulted in signing me up for hundreds of newsletters and sites, from porn to religious societies–I think I’m more or less in the clear.

Have you experienced any form of identity theft? What security measures have you put into place as a result?

Believe me, I think if I could find a way to take all of my personal information off the web I’d do that and go back to the way it all was when we just wrote checks and relied on snail mail.

But I think that ship has probably sailed.

The good news? The credit card agencies and all support services have been very helpful. It’s a new year. Consider changing your passwords. Mine are now so complex I’m going to have a hard time remembering them myself.

Stay tuned!






45 thoughts on “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

  1. “Liking” this post is not really on, :\
    You poor bugger, Debra ! .. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me; but then, anyone wanting to BE me wouldn’t get far in spending terms – there ARE some positives to being a pensioner, then ! 😉
    Can’t begin to think how much of your time this has taken up. And to think that it’s not the first time !

    • Thank you for your concerns towards all that this “intrusion” has entailed, M-R. Although the credit card fraud is at first very alarming, at least there are helpful people walking me through the steps. I think the worst part has been the influx of really awful SPAM. I don’t exactly understand how that was instituted, but once again, I’m working through that, as well. I think as soon as I’ve closed the case satisfactorily I will close my email address and try to start fresh! ;-(

  2. I’ve had my credit card info stolen (with unauthorized charges) and a check stolen and washed (but discovered before it could be used). Even though we as individuals can often be made whole again (after a lot of time and hassle), we as a society pay for these crimes every day in increased costs. But, like you, I continue to take advantage of the convenience despite the risks.

    I hope you enjoyed San Francisco! I look forward to reading about your trip.

    • You’re so right about the societal costs resulting from financial fraud! The agencies have been very helpful, but that doesn’t eliminate the problem entirely for me, either, as I don’t know where my information may have traveled! I’m doing all that I can on my end, and it just takes a lot of effort. Your experience with the check must have been on an entirely different level of criminality. Doesn’t that get into banking fraud?

      We did have a good few days between San Francisco and Oakland. Our family is there and we certainly enjoy the comforts of navigating with people who know where we’re going! I was probably not in the best frame of mind had I been the navigator. 🙂

  3. So glad you could still enjoy some family time in the midst of this mess. We have to hang on to the good stuff, come what may! 🙂 🙂
    I’ve been victim to smaller thefts twice, and both were caught in the early stages, but it does shake you up. And make you very angry!

    • Oh yes! We still had a wonderful time away, but traveling I needed to use my credit cards and I just felt nervous putting more information out there when I hadn’t even figured this particular “crime” out. I literally discovered the problem two hours before we left home, so I was definitely “multi-tasking” along the way. I don’t like to do that, but the good news was that I could at least keep up! If it doesn’t go any further than it already has, we’ll be fine. Now I just have to learn a lot of new pin numbers and access codes, and remember all of my security questions. That I resent. LOL!

  4. I am so sorry that happened to you, what a nightmare it must be. Check your firewall provider and make sure all is up to date at all times. I use Avast, premium and I am happy, happy, happy. Every pishing attempt gets but on hold right away, every hacking attempt stopped in its tracks. My computer gets cleaned every night and I get rid of all the cookies myself, I also delete all the temporary files by typing %temp% in the start menu. Avast even offers a password generator, which I haven’t tried yet -but I am going to. Change all your passwords every month, and don’t use your bank card for online purchases. Get a prepaid card instead, this way they only get you have put on the card and they won’t have access to other data.

    As for Cosco, I would call them and ask about their security policy. You are a customer. The delivery address was changed and I assume the bill was higher than usual. All red flags were ignored on their end.

    I don’t allow ads, use a free adblocker. Call me paranoid, but I believe hackers are always a step ahead. Just opening an email can bring us trouble these days. Don’t open suspicious emails and don’t open attachments sent by an unknown source. Spoof check everything you are not sure about.

    • Oh my goodness, but your information is SO helpful! Thank you. I would say that I am definitely lax in comparison to the strong measures you’re regularly employing. I think I might have agreed that your abundance of caution was “overkill,” but I don’t at all right now. I think we were lucky, for the most part. Had we already left town (which we did two hours later than the discovery) I might not have checked any of my emails or other information until the following day or so, and I don’t know what would have occurred.

      Again, thank you! I hope others read your response as well and are encouraged to do more. It’s very important.

  5. What a pain to have to deal with. Recently UPS delivered a package to our house that we didn’t order and wasn’t even addressed to us. It wasn’t for a neighbor so I couldn’t even take it to the right person – in fact I did a search and the address didn’t exist, complete fake. Took three phone calls to UPS to convince them to come and pick it up.

    I take great care with my info and check and double check who and where my info is going to. I have difficult to guess passwords. Still as careful as I try to be, I’ve had a couple of credit card issues. Once someone in Canada tried to buy gas with a card in my name. Sadly all you can really do is to stay on top of it. Also I have setup a credit card with a low limit that I just use for internet purchases.

    • That’s a really good idea about the low limit on-line card! I hadn’t even considered that, and I’d say that’s pretty important.

      That’s just crazy about the UPS delivery. I have tried to “think like a criminal” and understand some of the methods being used to hack or defraud but I really can’t get there. I think it’s got to be measures that are fairly complex and brought down to simple if you know what you’re doing.

      The Russian ordeal was actually the worst. eBay wanted me to do much of the sleuthing, and no matter how many times I told them I didn’t speak Russian, they still had a lot of faith in me! LOL!

      Thank you for your suggestions. They’re helpful!

  6. That’s a very painful experience Debra and I hope it’s behind you. Equally, it’s a very enlivening experience – fighting to reclaim what’s your’s! Over 20 years ago I had a transaction on one of my credit card accounts that was clearly wrong since it was a purchase in the US. I contacted my bank immediately and challenged the payment. “I’ve never been to the US” was my explaination for why this was a fraudulent transaction. The bank accepted that was true and immediately refunded my money 🙂 I’ve not had any obvious successful thefts since although I did have an attempted loan request in my name a couple of years back bounced by the loan provider because they realised it was fraudulent – they kindly informed me about it 🙂

    Defending against this is not really possible – all you can do is minimise the risk and make it as easy as possible for you to spot an anomaly. So – ditch all credit cards except one that you are happy with. Whilst putting all your eggs in one basket isn’t a good idea, minimising the number of bank accounts you have also helps you to spot when something isn’t right.

    Make sure that your passwords are not common words or number sequences – you’d be surprised how many people still use ‘password’ or ‘123456’ as a password! – include some non-alphanumeric characters if your bank’s website allows.

    Find yourself a VPN provider and always do your banking transactions through a VPN connection – it encrypts your data and makes it much harder for criminals to access.

    • Thank you, Martin. I have been quite proud of myself in the past for keeping up with some measure of computer literacy, but reading the suggestions you make, and some provided by other blogging friends tells me that I have a new learning curve to challenge me. I suppose that can be enlivening in its own way. I’m not at all sure about the VPN encryption tools, but I do know how to research. So I’ll be on that soon!

      I think my previous passwords were more clever than they were difficult. That’s on me! I have been doing a good job of working those through, and I think I’m going to do what we had to do at work when I was employed–change the passwords twice a year. I hated doing that, but it does make sense.

      Thank you for your thoughtful concern!

  7. That must be frustrating to go through it, Debra. I had a couple unpleasant experiences with my credit card.
    I’m glad to hear about your trip. These are beautiful photos!

    • Thank you for the compliment on the photos, Amy. I did have a lovely time away, and I’m anxious to share about that. Fun times with family are much more interesting than credit card fraud.

      I’m getting through the added paperwork and following up on accounts, and the damage is not going to be anything too significant. Maybe my pride and a lot of wasted time, but that’s something we all experience once in a while. 🙂

      • Looking forward to seeing your travel photos, Debra.
        I also think banks have prepared for credit fraud, which make customers a little easier to report and deal with it.

  8. Oh I’m sorry you are having to deal with this. Like you, I dread the day I ever did anything online. It stuns me the effort others put into stealing from others. Use that same energy for positive gains. Geez.

    • We talked all weekend about how we could minimize our on-line presence, Colleen, and maybe not be so tied to on-line banking and other measures, but in the end, it still didn’t answer some of the most basic problems. We had friends years ago get in all kinds of trouble when a check they’d written was stolen out of a mailroom associated with a business. At least with online measures you can more or less monitor for suspicious activity.

      You’re right, though. With the effort that goes into stealing, why not channel into something productive? LOL! Seems so obvious, doesn’t it?

      • It seems obvious to ‘us’ 😉 I have had friends who have had so much stolen via online problems. When I was an investigator for APS it was rampant (is rampant) the stealing from older adults. It’s horrifying what people will do to one another.

  9. Oh my … what a way to start your day. But, you were fortunate, so take the smile. Love the way you take a negative situation, yet write about it in a positive light … plus giving sound advise. OH … loved the song … a new one for me … and it had me thinking about adding it to my foxtrot playlist.

    • Thank you, Frank. I have had quite an ordeal getting rid of the SPAM. The credit card charges are going to be reversed, and I think changing passwords and all I’m safe for the moment, but I’ve never seen anything like the number of “new” websites, newsletters and propaganda that now flood my inbox. It’s also being caught in the SPAM filter, but it makes me a little anxious wondering what they know about me. Now I sound paranoid. LOL!

      I have been listening to music and sitting at my desk for two days working things through, and in general, I’m fortunate. Notice I didn’t say I’m sitting here listening to “THE trial.” I’ll take George Harrison. 🙂

  10. “Believe me, I think if I could find a way to take all of my personal information off the web I’d do that and go back to the way it all was when we just wrote checks and relied on snail mail.”

    ME TOO! The Internet has stolen our peace of mind . . .

    • It’s so true, Nancy. I’ve been thinking a lot about the unforeseen, or unintended consequences of so many things we jumped in trusting would be to our benefit. I am really guilty of being the kind of person dazzled by new shiny objects, and not asking enough questions. I think I had a Twitter account when most of my friends hadn’t even heard of it yet. I get curious, and then put all of my info out there and then complain. LOL! Much to still learn, apparently. 🙂

      I have wonderfully complex passwords now. That will settle me down. I’ll be too slow to do too much self-inflicted damage.

  11. I am so sorry. I got an email from my bank on Christmas eve a few years back and instead of watching White Christmas, I had to change all my passwords. They blocked the attempt but they still closed my account and issued me a new credit card. Then I had to change all the auto banking I do with the new number. I’m glad you still enjoyed your vacation even with all this hanging over your head.

    • Christmas Eve! That’s got to be the worst for so many reasons, including that institutions shut down! The auto banking is what I’m wondering about the most. I do a lot of it. I am not sure that’s a good thing, although, I also think the sophistication of these crimes means they are everywhere and even with our best efforts, once in a while we get caught in the net.

      I’m through the worst of it and now I just need to be more vigilant. I did have fun being away for a few days, primarily because I have family that live in wonderful places. LOL! I get a vacation and family time. A winner!

  12. This George Harrison song helps calm us down at least. You balance the horror of being hacked with the beauty of your photos. Being hacked IS an attack and it’s scary. We use a heavy dose of Norton on our computer which really seems to stop viruses and SPAM and bad actors. But I’m knocking on wood as I write this, because we’re all vulnerable. I’m with one of the bloggers above; I avoid blogs that allow ads, and I pay extra on my Word Press to have NO ads on my blog. And I never open anything that I don’t know who/what it is. And I never open ads – anywhere.
    And yes, I liked the good ole days of checks (and balances – haha). But several years ago my guy and I were pickpocketed (HE was) in Amsterdam and soon after lots of charges on our credit cards. So it still happens the “old” way too.

    • My goodness, Pam. Pickpocketed! There are so many ways that we can be vulnerable! I have been spending so much time over the last couple of weeks changing every single password and have even started a different email to use for business. It’s so time consuming because everything is linked, and each time I make a change on one device I have to authenticate the move on all others. I am pleased that there are added security measures, but they are a pain to work with. I want my cake and to eat it, too! 🙂 Thankyou for sharing your thoughts! You add a lot to the discussion, and I think we are all considering where our personal vulnerabilities might be!

  13. Oh yes, that is scary Debra. It happened to me some years ago with my credit card… lots of relatively smaller sums were being deducted by various Indian companies which clearly didn‘t exist, Took ages to clear up but I got it all back in the end! Good luck!

    • It really is a hazard we all have to face, isn’t it, Cathy. There are “bad actors” everywhere, and as much as I feel personally affected, I’m really bothered by the effect these violations have on the credit card agencies. They end up losing millions annually, I suspect, and those costs affect each one of us. Very sad. I’m glad you eventually got your personal matter cleared up, but I can imagine the loss of time and the insecurity while you figured it all out! 😦

  14. So Awful but has happened to us too ! Lord please help ! And yes we all calming down, but makes you want to put up a fist too! this is not right. Love Debi

    • I think it must be a very rare person who has not been affected by credit theft, Debi, but I’m sorry to hear that you, too, have had to navigate that confusion! I think I’ve done about all I can do right now, but about the time I get comfortable it will be time to change all the passwords again. LOL!

  15. Oh my Debra. I am so sorry! Yes, your photos are lovely. Miss you. Come to Carpinteria. We are camp hosting the months of March and May this spring. Would love to sit with you by the ocean and just chat! Love you. Judy

    • Thanks for sharing the dates you’ll be in Carpinteria, Judy. That certainly opens up a nice wide opportunity and I will do it! We are overdue…by months and months. Miss you, too!! ox

  16. That ship you mentioned at the end of the post has definitely sailed. So far I am been fortunate enough to not have encountered any identity theft. But yes, I have had occasions when someone tried to charge my credit card. In fact one of my cards are just cancelled because of an unauthorized attempt to use it. It takes some work to get it rebuked but at least I have managed every time so far.

  17. I had to chuckle at your misfortune. About 10 years ago I grabbed a cab on a Friday morning to haul me out to the Calgary AB airport. The cabbie said his electronic card scanner wasn’t working so he used one of the rolling imprint machines that imprint the raised numbers. Arrived home Friday night, in bed with my wife that night and also Saturday night. Important points!

    Sunday morning the bank calls about a potential fraudulent charge. Somehow my credit card number was charged $150.00 for “an escort service” Saturday night in Calgary! Thankfully I was home in bed with my wife Saturday night. Fortunately those imprint credit card devices are ancient history.

  18. How awful. I have a fear of this kind of thing and I hope that they can tighten up cybersecurity more to prevent this. As computers get more sophisticated so do the loopholes that scammers target. It is good to use pseudonyms or use a fake birthdate on non essential newsletter stuff. I hope you get it sorted soon. Not fun at all.

  19. Dear Debra, twice in the past three months, I’ve gotten notification from Amazon that I’ve purchased computers worth $1,900 and they are being sent elsewhere. I tell you we are living in scary times. I’ve stopped watching the news on television because things seem so disheartening. Instead I use the New York Times to keep me abreast of what’s happening. I find that reading is less emotional than seeing the faces on television. Peace.

    • Oh my goodness, Dee. I hope Amazon is assisting you in some way, so that if your identity or credit has been breached there is a good resolve. I feel very vulnerable, and that’s not a good feeling. We are definitely relying more on print news right now, and at that, limiting what I read. I feel like my anxiety is on “high” and I don’t see how that’s a good thing for any of us. It’s good to hear from you, my friend, and I hope you are well!

  20. I’m always trying to develop safeguards against thieves. Coming up with original passwords is a good one. I’ve considered carrying an old cheap wallet and then dropping it in public to see what happens. Haha. It could be a real tell. Good luck to you with your mishap. I had someone get me years ago but my bank was very helpful and noticed the unusual activity and got right on it. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Thank you for stopping by and sharing, Parker. I think one of my biggest issues in maintaining online security is determining not just the levels of risk, but how to manage all the differing passwords, security questions and log-in requirements. It feels like all entities are continually asking me to verify who I am, thus requiring giving out information that they already have, but need to verify that I’m the original holder. I get so tired of that and want to just eliminate the sequences. I think if I ever need a definition of what results in unintended consequences, it must surely be on-line purchasing and banking. LOL! I do feel like a dinosaur sometimes. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing.

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