Monday, September 24, 2007

Sometime while I was living in Des Moines, Iowa (1993-1997) someone in St. Louis, Missouri used my name and social security number to get a cell phone. This person then ran up a several-hundred dollar bill that they never paid. I found out while living in Austin (sometime between 1999 and 2000). By then, a collection agency had been looking for me, and they were not at all sympathetic to my innocence claims.

One person at the agency finally suggested I back my story up with a police case number. I spoke to a St. Louis police detective who was helpful but not surprised by my story. The phrase identity theft was not part of the popular vernacular, but he predicted that this sort of crime would be a big deal within 10 years. When I called the collection agency back with my case number they promptly and politely informed me that I was off the hook.


I get fake email from PayPal all the time, and I dutifully forward it to They then send me back a note confirming that I received a fraudulent message, and reminded me of how to discern a genuine PayPal communique from a phony one. That's how I knew there was real trouble earlier today when the PayPal message confirming my payment to a stranger of several hundred dollars greeted me by name.

Somehow this person got into my PayPal account and sent themselves a large payment. I filed an online unauthorized transaction report with PayPal, and also called them. They told me they would investigate and that whoever did this probably did not get my whole credit card number, just the last four digits. I also called my credit card company, and they were extremely nice. They said to let PayPal handle it for now ("it is their job"), and if the payment actually "hit" my card then they would take care of it for me.

A couple hours later PayPal wrote to say the situation was resolved and the "seller" was issuing me a refund. The email also contained this transmission from the thief:
Message From Seller:

The email address of the person who tried stealing my money is:

If anyone knows of any clever, mean-spirited (but legal) retribution I'd be honored if you carried it out on my behalf.


matt said...

diy = do it yourself?
mmo = massively multiplayer online
game = game

looks like you got hit by goldfarmers for warcraft or some other online game. they get accounts with credit cards or paypal and then get gold in the games that they sell for real money. its weird. I will ask around at work about any cyber-retribution the guys can think up.


bryan h. said...

Thanks, Matt.

Anonymous said... just stole money from my paypal, too. you'd think they'd be banned after doing it once.

bryan h. said...

I'm really sorry to hear that. the PayPal people couldn't have been nicer to me, and they got my money back; I hope you've had the same outcome. If you haven't, you should fill out the unauthorized transaction form online and also call them as soon as you can. I hope you get it worked out.

Alex said...

Today I got hit with a $280 charge from the same guy. I googled him and stumbled upon your blog. I'll let PayPal know that I'm not the first to be scammed by him when I file my report. >.<

bryan h. said...

Hey alex,

I'm really sorry to hear that. I don't know how many times he's done this to people, but if you're the second person to comment here about it (see above from anonymous) then it must happen a lot. why does PayPal let this guy keep using their service?

Anyway, good luck.


Ken said...

jesus, i almost got scammed by this dude too! i filed my report just now, and thank god everything was cancelled and no funds were transferred. how does something like this occur??