I am rushing on the way to a much needed manicure when I feel my phone buzz in my pocket. I look at the incoming message.
Your PayPal account has been credited with $489 to xyxy airlines.
What the – I haven’t bought any tickets. Another buzz.
Your PayPal account has been credited with $576 to xyxy.
I immediately know I am being hacked. I panic. I try to log onto PayPal. My account is not accepting my password. The same password that I was made to change when I discovered my account had been hacked just LAST WEEK. I try again. Nope, still not accepting it. How can this be? How can this fucking be? I start to breathe heavily. How much money have they taken? How have they taken it, since I know I have absolutely no money in my account.
I ring PayPal. Please press 1 for this, please press 2 for that. I start to shake violently. BLOODY AUTOMATED SYSTEMS!!!! Eventually, I get through to the option that covers being hacked. It’s called press 5 for all other enquiries. I press 5. I’m taken through another series of options. For God’s sake can they not tell how serious this is!! Again, I press 5 for ‘other’. I am asked for the password to my account, but I know it won’t work. I’m stuck. OMG I’m going to have some person taking as much money from my account as they can muster only 8 weeks before christmas and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it because I’M TALKING TO A FRIGGIN MACHINE!!!
Eventually, Michelle (that’s what I called the voice in the time it took me to get this far) senses (I’m assuming) that I am stuck. If you cannot remember your password, please enter the last four digits of the credit card that is linked with your PayPal account. I know that I have deleted all but two of my cards. The one has no money in it…OMG it is Dee’s card. I slowly press in the last 4 digits of his card. Thank you, we are putting you through to an operator.
I close my eyes. Please do not let it be Dee’s card, I quietly pray.
“How can I help you Ma’am?’
“Please, please help me, I’ve been hacked. There are amounts coming off of my account. Purchases I haven’t made.”
“Can I start with your email address please.”
I swallow. Seriously? I rattle off my email address.
“Can I have the password on your account?”
“Well, you can, but it won’t help. My password isn’t working. I changed it just last week when my account was hacked then. These guys obviously have your system taped. Are you sure it isn’t an inside job? Please close down my account. Please close down my account!”
“Okay, Ma’am, I’m sorry to hear of the stress you are going through. I’m just looking at your account and a number of purchases have been made recently. Have you made any purchases recently.”
I’m almost like a crazed tiger now. “NO, I haven’t, I haven’t used my account since, well, I don’t know when, A VERY LONG TIME. Close the account, PLEASE close the account.”
“I can’t close the account I am afraid. I have to raise a dispute (don’t you just love the word ‘dispute’ – that so understates what this actually IS!’) and then once we have resolved (I REALLY hope this means arrested the guy) the issue we can credit your account, and then, if you want, we can close down your account.”
There are so many things wrong with this conversation – lack of urgency, lack of understanding, an almost too-familiar tone to his voice. Does this happen a lot?
“Please, I need you to stop anyone from getting access to this account. I can’t get into it, no-one else should be able to either.”
“Ma’am (I’m starting to get REALLY annoyed with being called Ma’am), I have put a lock down on your account. No-one can access it. We will be in touch with you when we have resolved the issue. Is there anything else, today, Ma’am?”
Anything else! Anything else! Is this for real? I know he is doing his job, but Is There Anything Else?
“No, please let me know ASAP when the dispute has been resolved!”
“We will do Ma’am. Have a good day.”
My beauty therapist looks at me. “Not a great start to the week then?”
I roll my eyes, fighting the back the anxiety attack I’m about to have. What was meant to be a relaxing time having my nails done is now time stressing about how much money has been taken. Do I phone Dee now, wait until the dispute is over, what should I do.
I leave the salon. My phone rings. It’s Dee.
“Hi my love, where are you?”
“I’m just leaving the salon. I’ll be home soon.”
“No, don’t, I’m at the Centre. Let’s grab coffee and then head off to the nursery.” We are doing our garden and are off to the nursery to choose our plants.
I meet Dee at our usual place.
“Dee, someone has hacked into my PayPal account again. There have been a number of large withdrawals using your credit card.”
He looks at me. “How much?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know. About $800 I think.”
He pulls out his phone, immediately logging into his account. He gasps. I look over and see one amount after another taken from the account over a three day period. Hot tears slide down my cheek. This is A LOT worse than I thought.
“I am so so sorry.” I whisper.
“Sarah, this is not your fault. It’s okay. I’ll just contact the bank, they’ll cancel the card and reissue. It is okay and this is NOT your fault.”
I hear the words, but I don’t believe them. I think of all the things I have bought online, many without really checking if they are from secure sites, and wonder if my carelessness has brought this about. It is so easy to buy stuff online these days, SO easy. We all do it, right?
No-one is meant to store your card details, but we have no way of knowing if they are actually disposing of them do we? I mean, I was hacked on PayPal just last week and now, not 7 days later, I’m hacked again. Also, in this time I have also had my Ebay account hacked and an attempt on my personal bank account. A serious effort to steal my identity is being made here.
I suddenly feel violated. HOW DARE THEY? I don’t care if it is a risk we take by buying online, much like it was a risk that the bank you stored your money in (back when ACTUAL money was stored in banks) ran the risk of being knocked over by bank robbers, THIS IS WRONG! I consider closing everything down and storing my money under my mattress.
The feeling of violation lugs with me throughout this day. I feel very heavy. I think of how much we have handed over as a society. So much freedom, so much of ourselves is given away through operating online. I try to keep perspective. I love to shop online with its choice and competition. The social outlet has been a god send for a natural recluse like me. But at what cost? Is it worth it? I simply do not know. All I do know is that Dee and I have been left with a massive hole in our bank account, and right now someone somewhere is planning a trip (airline tickets, remember) with my details. It’s scary and it makes me wonder if we sacrifice too much for global connectivity.