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  My Rude AwakeningSunday, September 24th, 2023  
© John Mark Ministries

Like many people, I shop online using a credit card. I've been doing this for years, and I periodically examine my credit card account for signs of suspicious activity. There are times when I am out of town for long spells (for example, I might be in Alaska photographing grizzly bears), and I might not be able to review my account for months. In the Fall of 2005 my credit card number was compromised - maybe during one of the much-publicized data leaks that reveal millions of credit card names and numbers at once, or perhaps by way of an incautious or crooked online vendor that I had patronized - I may never know. In any case, a few months later I noticed some transactions that appeared to be fraudulent - a well-known Internet service provider had been charging my card for three months, and there was also a one-time charge of $100.00 that was harder to identify, because it had been made by a PayPal account holder.

I called my bank's fraud department and denied any knowledge of the service provider charges. In a show of efficiency, the bank's representative called the service provider while I was on the line and the provider identified the charge as payment for a Web site. I realized this was totally bogus and I said so. The bank removed those charges right away (and I cancelled my card to prevent further abuse).

As to the service provider's charges, the entire process was fast and efficient, and couldn't have taken more than 15 minutes. But there remained the matter of the $100.00 PayPal charge, which was harder to identify because it was made by an anonymous PayPal subscriber rather than a named business.

I was optimistic, but I shouldn't have been. My optimism came from the idea that a vendor who charges a credit card has to justify the charge - they have to show that the card holder actually made a charge. Even though I said I didn't recognize the charge and thought it was fraudulent, I couldn't prove it was fraudulent. As it turns out, under current law the burden of evidence wasn't mine, it belonged to whoever owned the PayPal account - he would have to prove that it was a legitimate charge. The bank assured me they were looking into it, and the charge was taken off my account.

As I put down the phone, I thought the system had worked and the affair had ended. I am in some ways rather naïve.

Copyright ©John Mark Ministries.

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