Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

A Payment Card Fraudster’s Charter

From the BBC:

The scam is hard for police or other agencies to investigate because the individual sums of money involved are very small.

I wonder if the political class or the general public realise the implications of this situation, or the true scale of the amount of money that goes missing, entirely without police investigation for the simple reason that the amount is “too small”.

Fairly recently, we had a purchase put through our website from a customer in Paris, France. This customer used someone else’s card to make the purchase, and the owner of that card was understandably irritated and complained to their card issuer who, under the card scheme rules, returned the money, which was subsequently recovered from us along with a so-called “chargeback fee”.

The account on our website was locked and the licenses cancelled so they couldn’t re-activate the software if they needed to at any point in the future.

Subsequently, the same person made another purchase, using an entirely different set of card details belonging to another third party, who also complained at their card issuer, who returned the money as before, recovering it from us and resulting in another “chargeback fee”.

It is entirely obvious that this person has access to multiple sets of stolen credit/debit card details. It is equally obvious that the total amount that is likely to be at stake is many, many times the amount of any individual purchase. Yet when we asked the police to look into the matter, we were told that the French police wouldn’t investigate because the sum of money was too small1.

It should be immediately apparent to anyone with half a brain that this attitude results in the perverse outcome that even large-scale credit or debit card fraud involving multiple small transactions in foreign countries, ideally spread across many online retailers, will go undetected and more importantly unpunished, while vendors (particularly of digital goods and services, where the losses are almost invariably passed on by the card issuer) are unfairly penalised for being the final victims of this fraud.

This amounts to nothing less than a license to defraud and is, quite frankly, a disgrace.

1 In reality, I suspect that it is not the police per se, but rather a diplomatic agreement between the U.K. and France that cross-border crime below a certain value will simply not be dealt with, since, as I understand it, such cases need to be funnelled through the respective diplomatic services — though I am hardly an expert in this and I could very well be wrong.