Diggin' technology every day

October 16, 2012

Caught red handed!

Filed under: Random Thought — Tags: — Nate @ 7:46 am

[UPDATED] Woohoo! I am excited. I was checking my e-mail and got an email from Bank of America that there was another fraud alert on my credit card (as you might imagine I am very careful but for some reason I get hit at least once or twice a year). My card was locked out until I verified some transactions.

I tried to use their online service but it said my number couldn’t be processed online so I had to call.

So I called and gave my secret information to them, and they cited some of the transactions that was attempted to be charged including:

  • World friends – people who like to travel ? Or maybe the upscale dating service?
  • Al shop – online electronics store in DUBAI
  • Payless shoe stores – yeah they don’t carry my size unless I wear their shoe boxes as shoes
  • Paypal authorization attempt

All of the charges were declined – because – the number they attempted to use is a ShopSafe number, a service that BofA offers that I have written about in the past, where I generate single use credit cards for either single purchases or recurring subscriptions. These cards are only good for a single merchant, once charged nobody else can use them.

In this case it was a recurring payment number, which on top of the single merchant has a defined monthly credit limit.

Naturally of course since they are only valid for a single merchant I only give the number out to a single merchant.

Apparently it was my local CABLE COMPANY that had this recurring credit card number assigned to them. I gave this number to them over the phone a couple of months ago after my credit card was re-issued again. So either they had a security breach or some employee tried to snag it. They don’t appear to be a high tech organization given they are a local cable company that only serves the city I am in.  They have no online billing or anything like that which I am aware of.  In any case it made it really easy to determine the source of the breach since this number was only ever given to one organization. The fraud attempts were made less than 24 hours after the cable company charged my bill.

Unlike the last credit card fraud alert – which was also on a ShopSafe card, this time the customer service rep said she did not have to cancel my main card – which makes total sense since only the ShopSafe card was compromised. I believe the last time only the ShopSafe card was compromised as well, but the customer service rep insisted the entire card be canceled. I think that original rep didn’t fully understand what ShopSafe was.

You could even say there is not a real need to cancel the ShopSafe card – it is compromised but it is not usable by anyone other than the cable company, but they canceled it anyways. Not a big deal it takes me two minutes to generate a new one, though I have to call them and give them the new number. Or go see them in person I guess. I tried calling a short time ago but the office wasn’t open yet.

The BofA customer service rep I spoke to this morning said I was one of only a few customers over the years that she has talked to that used ShopSafe (I use it ALL the time).

Of all the fraud activity on my card over the years(and other times where merchants reported they had been compromised but there was no fraudulent charges on my card), this is the first time that I know with certainty who dun it, so I’m excited. I wonder what the cable company will say…

One of the downsides to ShopSafe is because it is single merchant I do have to pay attention when buying stuff from market places, I frequently buy from (long time customer), who is a pretty big merchant site. I have to make sure my orders come from only a single merchant, which on big orders can sometimes mean going through checkout 3-4 times and issuing different credit card #s for each round. I try to keep the list of numbers saved on their site fairly pruned though at the moment they have 38 cards stored for me. There was one time about a year ago that contacted me about a purchase I made that they forgot to charge me for about 4 months. The card I issued was only valid for two months so it was expired when they found the missing transaction in their system. Apparently someone I know who is well versed in the credit card area said that technically they can’t force me to pay for it at that point (I think 60 or maybe 90 days is the limit, I forgot exactly what he said). But I did get the product and I am a happy customer so had no issue paying for it.

Yay Shopsafe, I wish more companies had such a service, it’s very surprising to me how rare it seems to be.

UPDATE – I spoke to one of the managers at the cable company and he was obviously surprised, and said they will start an investigation. I think that manager may end up signing up for BofA credit cards, he sounded very impressed with ShopSafe.

July 26, 2010

Dell settles with the SEC

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Nate @ 8:52 am

This story makes me sick. Everyone in the industry knew it was going on, several years ago Intel was paying off their customers to stick to their products, and not deploy the superior Opteron processors. Intel’s strategy to convert the world to Itanium was going down in flames thanks to AMD’s extension of x86 – x86-64, combine that with a superior hardware architecture derived from the Alpha (and created by many former engineers who worked on the Alpha – AMD hired many of them). Whether it was the hypertransport design, the itnegrated memory controllers, multi core designs. In so many areas AMD was showing such massive innovations the only way Intel could respond at the time was by paying their customers to not use their stuff.

In no place was it more obvious than Dell. A company that myself I’ve never had respect for for other reasons(biggest being they don’t innovate at all outside of their supply chain). Dell was the only big OEM that did not use AMD processors at all for the longest time.

The Register has posted a couple of articles on this recently with Dell settling with the SEC for a mere $100M.

What upsets me more than anything else, is not the fact that this went on, but the pocket change of penalties that resulted. Intel paid AMD $1.25 billion to settle all outstanding legal cases last year, a small fraction that otherwise should of been paid. Dell pays only $100M, maybe that’s enough for the SEC, but on anti trust grounds it should be far more. $100M is not a deterrent. It accounts for a small fraction of what Intel paid them!

Same goes for the settlement Intel paid to AMD, I have absolutely no doubt, as you should have none as well, that Intel benefited FAR more than the $1 billion paid to AMD. It should of been $10 billion, if not higher. Intel wrote that settlement off in one quarter!

It really is depressing to see these big companies get away with this sort of thing. Whether it’s Dell, or Intel, or the recent Goldman Sachs SEC settlement. The penalties are pocket change compared to what they should be to make it a real deterrent. And moreover, individuals are not punished in a lot of cases, the company takes the hit, and of course in all cases nobody ever admits any wrong doing. Goldman, like Intel wrote their settlement off in one quarter!

Dell wasn’t alone, we all knew it but no other OEM was being so blatenly obvious in their strategy.

Intel’s rebates amounted to 38 per cent of Dell’s operating profit in the fiscal year 2006, and rose to 76 per cent (or $720m) in one quarter alone, Q1 2007. While almost all of the Intel funds were incorporated into Dell’s component costs, Dell did not disclose the existence, much less the magnitude, of the Intel exclusivity payments.


New York State’s lawsuit suggests that the reach of the funding was wide indeed. It alleges that IBM benefited by $130m from Intel simply for not launching an AMD product. HP benefited by almost $1bn. Again, you might suppose Intel might have found better use for such resources – such as R&D.

A lot of the big companies do this sort of thing, it’s a wonder that tech startups even bother to start up anymore when there is really nobody keeping the playing field fair. One other similar despicable business deal which I was informed from two different people on both sides of the table was a networking deal Cisco was competing with AT&T for along with some other vendors. AT&T was(and probably still is) the largest user and re-seller of Cisco gear. The competition was the obvious players there’s only so many out there! Anyways the deal went down, Cisco lost hands down on many accounts. Their technology just isn’t competitive in so many areas. So how did Cisco respond? They came back to AT&T with 95% off list pricing. They bought the business. They didn’t win on any real merits, they took a major loss on the deal, which will result in all of their other customers having to continue to pay more to compensate for that. That just makes me sick.

But nothing seems to be on such a grand scale as what Intel did to keep AMD at bay. It was shocking to me seeing the pundits saying “oh well the consumer wasn’t hurt by those practices”, not taking into account how close AMD came to the brink, with their massive(still massive!) amount of debt they have incurred over the years. An incredible market opportunity for them was there for several years, something Intel kept small by throwing cash at their customers because they had nothing else to offer.

Intel can’t afford to lose AMD from an anti trust standpoint, but they also don’t want them to succeed too much, a pretty fine line they walk.

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