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Finance, Hacks, Thoughts

Once The Ship Lifts, All Bills Are Paid

The Credit Card guys have a bunch of algorithms to spot fraud. Supposedly, a sure-fire way to set off alarm bells a few years ago were these charges:

  1. A gas tank fillup.
  2. Another gas tank fillup.
  3. A charge at a Sporting Goods store.

The idea was that the stolen card is first used to fill up the thief’s tank, and then his friend’s tank. After that they head off to a sporting goods store for some expensive sneakers.


I can’t confirm that this story was true, but the other day discovered one modern equivalent.

  1. Overseas charge.
  2. Internet purchase.
  3. A charge at a Sporting Goods store.

Within the space of an hour I had booked a few nights at an Inn in the UK and put down a £50 deposit. Then I had purchased a (less than $1.00) Kindle book. And Leslie had stopped and bought a T-shirt at Sports Authority.

Bingo, the phone rang and I was soon listening to Chase Bank’s fraud computer asking me to verify those three charges in exactly that order.

Here’s what I think the computer didn’t like:

  1. Because I had made similar charges over the previous week in the UK, it must have been that this charge was in combination with (2) and (3).
  2. Small Internet charges are a known way for thieves to check that a card is valid. I’ve made small charges before so it must have been the combo charges that were flagged.
  3. The Sporting Goods store charge is a mystery. It wasn’t a very large charge, about $20.00

So we have another Teaching Opportunity:

  • I will give Chase Bank credit (sic) for very alert fraud prevention, which will flag suspicious charge combinations.
  • So if you try this at home (which I don’t recommend), go all in with one (moderately) large charge.
  • On the other hand, maybe you will never be caught if you stay away from Sporting Goods stores.

I took the title of this Post “Once The Ship Lifts, All Bill Are Paid” from a line in the book To Sail Beyond The Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein.

I’ve always liked that quote and have been looking for a way to use it for years!

Ah, closure.



2 thoughts on “Once The Ship Lifts, All Bills Are Paid

  1. They think you’re a chav. When you call customer service ask for Neil.

    Posted by Ralphie May | July 11, 2009, 7:10 am

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