Spare some change please

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

I know this is very unprofessional and I hate to use this forum for such purposes, but would it be possible for you to chip in a few bob? You see, 10 days ago I got a phone call in which I was asked about a purchase on a store card.

It was a purchase I didn’t make. As it turns out, someone has been making a number of purchases on my behalf. They maxed out two store cards and had the audacity to open an account at another retailer using my (previously) good name. A banking query revealed that my credit rating is going the way of Enron shares.

And that’s why I need a loan from you guys.

While the fraud investigation is underway I sit in credit limbo. Even if I wanted to take out a short-term loan, settle the accounts and wait to be credited or repaid by the retailer, I couldn’t. From a bank’s point of view, you’re better off betting on our national soccer side to qualify for a World Cup than you are trusting me to repay you.

Is there a silver lining?

I’ve tried to remain positive about this whole affair. The scammer has been shopping at some very swanky stores. They’ve bought jewellery, upmarket homeware and clothes. In fact, I’m surprised that the fraud didn’t register when they swiped the card in the jewellery store. Surely retailers must have a “this guy’s not classy enough to shop here, the card must have been cloned” warning on their payment systems?

To be fair to the retail group in question, they have been forthright about the incident and from what I can tell so far, it looks like my store cards will be credited with the cash that was taken. Hopefully they remember to credit the interest too and let TransUnion know that I’m not likely to start a Ponzi scheme. For now, I just wish they’d stop harassing me for payment for goods I haven’t bought. Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down.

How, how, HOW?

How did it happen? One theory I have, is that when we had the break in a few weeks back, somewhere on that stolen Mac (with Pulitzer winning article) was enough data for them to convince the retailer that they were Shaun Wewege and then have my phone number changed. Once they’d done that, they could make outlandish purchases and when phoned by the stores they’d simply have to reply, “Why yes. I am Mr Wewege and I did indeed buy that overpriced bracelet.”

My other theory is more sinister. Given that fraud was committed at one retail group and some of the purchases were made before the break in (and possible loss of data), someone with access to my data made the few changes.

At the end of the day it makes little difference. I’ve had to go to great lengths to prove I did not buy the goods. In fact, it was probably easier for the scammer to buy under my name than it is for me to clear it.

My advice? Be careful with your data and where possible, always request immediate transaction notifications. The cost of an SMS is far less than a shopping spree in your name.

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