Monday, February 1, 2016

Smart Phones and Credit Card Fraud

About six months ago, I was perusing the Cracked website when I came across an article in their "personal experience" series. The personal experiences range from being a professional dominatrix to what it's like to have a hand transplant (that's rejected).

Six months ago, the personal experience series was about a guy who spent $9,000 playing Game of War, famously advertised using the breasts of Kate Upton and Mariah Carey.

And can I just say that it's awesome that they're using Mariah Carey as a sex symbol? I mean, aside from the whole "objectifying women to get money" thing, she's 46 (or 45, depending on who you ask), and she totally rocks that metal bustier. Look out, Wonder Woman, she's gunning for you!

More to the point, though, I thought that someone spending $9,000 to play a game on their phone was absolutely stupid. How the hell could someone sink that much money into their phone? I thought there was no game on earth that could make me drop that much cash - or, you know, credit - on a silly game. That was what happened to people who had no self control.


No, I haven't lost $9,000 to an iPhone game, but I did spend about $50 over the course of 3 days, without even realizing it. I was playing Bejeweled a lot, and kept seeing ads for Township, which seemed like a more involved version of the Farmville game that initially launched on Facebook 8 years ago (and which I enjoyed playing for a while). I thought, 'That would be a nice change. Something I can dip in and out of periodically throughout the day." I downloaded it. It was free, after all!

Within about three hours, I was out of the valuable T-Bills (not treasury bills, but Township bills) that are required for... everything. Almost everything. I'd misunderstood how they were used, and only realized my error when they were all gone.

No worries, I thought. I'll just buy some more, just this once. Two dollars later, I was charged up, again. Easy.

But things have a way of snowballing, don't they? Instead of checking it occasionally, the game is timed so that some things are ready to be harvested after 1 minute, and some after hours have passed. So if you didn't constantly check in, you might miss the harvest, and with it the opportunity to earn more coins - not T-Bills - that were needed to do... stuff.

You could pay to build a market using the coins, but when you don't have enough building materials at the end of construction - and no contractor to chew out and threaten with a lawsuit - you have to use the T-Bills to buy materials.

And they go quickly.

One building required 100 T-Bills to complete, because the damned train kept delivering the wrong materials. (100 T-Bills is about equal to $5.00)

Fortunately, despite the fact that I eventually spent $50 on the game, I stopped myself after only three days. Three obsessive, can-hardly-watch-Sherlock-because-I'm-playing-the-game days.

This morning, I deleted the game - and the 1500 citizens for whom I'd worked so hard to create a lovely town. I'd started thinking, the night before, 'I need to delete this app. It's a money pit." But I didn't, because then the money I'd already spent would be wasted.

But I decided to drop the game at 6 am, after suffering a night of severe insomnia, possibly (probably) worsened by the game that had become somewhat addictive.

And then it happened.

At 9 a.m. I received a phone call from my credit card company, alerting me to possible fraud.

'Oh, good grief!' I thought. 'This is just what I need!'

Can you see where this is going?

The credit card company had noticed two suspicious transactions from 'a record store' (also known as the iTunes App Store), close together and for larger amounts than were typically charged 'at that location.'

So this afternoon, after guiltily informing my husband that the app had been deleted, and looking sheepish when he said, "It's not like you spent $20 on the game, or anything, right?", I called the credit card company and said, "Nope, that was me."

Except I said it to an automaton, not a real person.

Granted, I downloaded Tetris for my phone, but that doesn't require in-game payments to get ahead, just quick fingers.

Hey, a girl needs some variety in her digital life, right?