CC Fraud

Posting this as I recently experienced credit card fraud and the process seems very, very odd and I cannot imagine I am the only person who has ever experienced it.

Mostly I do not use paid online advertising, for many reasons but I suspect mostly because managing and optimising online advertising is a full time job. And if it is not constantly monitored and optimised then it can be very expensive for negligible results. The main ROI that concerns me is whether the work I do results in something interesting, unique etc… and not whether a click on an ad resulted in a sale that justified the ad spend.

But back in August 2019 I figured I would try it. I made a Google ads account, wrote a lame ad and bid to have it attached to a few Google search results. During the HISSandaROAR August sale in 2019 I spent approx US$200 on ads and have no idea if it achieved anything at all, I disabled all ads and have not used ads ever since.

About a month ago my credit card was declined when I was trying to book flights, which seemed weird as it shouldn’t have been near its limit… but I also appreciate sometimes authorised annual subscription payments can appear unexpectedly (eg annual soundcloud, vimeo subs) so I checked my online bank statement… and was very surprised to see two payments totalling $1600 for Google ads! WTF?

I searched back through my credit card statements and found the 2019 payments to google ads and the text matched exactly (apart from an id number) with these new fraudulent payments.

So a legitimate 2019 payment was displayed in my bank statement as

Date – Google Ads # Google.Com Nz – Amount

And the fraudulent payments in 2020 displayed exactly the same, with only the # changed.

Strange.

Step 1:
I login to my Google ads account and check statements.
No invoices or payments are listed, since August 2019.

Step 2:
I search & find where to make a ‘disputed payment’ claim.
I provide all the info and get a reply immediately saying it will take ten days to investigate.

Step 3:
I call my bank – its a Sunday, but I get through to Credit card fraud dept, explain what happened and they proceed to cancel my card and request a new one be sent out.
They ask me to send all the info to them, but also say we will have to wait for google investigation before anything can be done by the bank.

A few days later something strange happens.
I get an automated message from Google Ads saying “Your Google Ads account was cancelled due to no spend in last 15 months”

At first I thought maybe it was part of their investigation, but I do some searches on the subject and discover that Google Ads has a policy of closing your Google Ads account if it is not used for 15 months in a row. They provide a link to reactivate the account, but I wondered about why 15 months? What an odd number, why 15?

But the odd thing is the timeline: this credit card fraud occurred one week before Google auto closed my Google ads account, and they or someone pretending to be them, maxed out my credit card! This seems a very strange coincidence.

Eventually the ten days passes and I get a message from Googles investigation.

“After reviewing your claim, we were unable to confirm fraudulent activity in this case, so no refund will be provided by Google at this time. If you would like to pursue the matter further, you can reach out to your financial institution.”

I forward the message to my bank, and they have now reversed the payments to my credit card. I take this to mean that the bank is wearing the cost of the fraud and I have no idea whether they do further investigation but I sure as hell hope they do, because this all reeks!

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