I feel so…violated.

14 Feb

I’m not sure how many of you USCers have USC Credit Union accounts, but somehow I fear that I’m the only one who fell for the e-mail scam today. I’m normally one of the most cautious people in the world, and I would usually never fall for something like this, but I was unfortunately affected by circumstance.

I feel so pathetic. How could I have been had so easily? What’s going to happen now?

You see, I’ve been making my travel plans for Spring Break. This involves using my credit card a lot for lodging and travel reservations. The other day, however, while making my Megabus plans for travel to and from Wales, the site declined my card because of a “WorldAlert check” — a fraud detection system. I talked to my mother and realised that we hadn’t directly informed the USC Credit Union that I’d be in the UK this semester, so the card had been flagged for unusual usage, since I wouldn’t normally be buying stuff in the UK.

This morning, I received an e-mail from the USC Credit Union asking me to verify my account information. I thought that this was certainly to reactive my card. I entered my card number, birthdate, etc.

Later in the day, I received another e-mail from the USC Credit Union. This time…the *real* one. The message informed me that the earlier message had been fraudulent. I had given away my debit card number and personal information to identity thieves.

The message did remark how particularly well-crafted this scam was, and clearly it was, because I would never give away sensitive information otherwise. The e-mail had the same format as every other message from the credit union, and the site it linked to required me to sign in via “Safe2Login”, the credit union’s security partner – and it looked exactly like it.

In hindsight, I should have been more cautious. I didn’t give the message a second thought because I was so convinced that it had to do with reactivating my card. I feel so incredibly stupid.

Of course, my mother (who was quite freaked out by this as you might expect) contacted the credit union right away. They put a stop on the account, but noted that the thieves had already paid something like $150 via Western Union using the card (they tried to spend $800 on something, but I don’t have that much money :)). My mother also contacted Western Union, who cancelled the pending transaction.

The good news? They didn’t get my bank account number. The bad news? They got pretty much everything else. I’m at risk for another 7 years, and my credit has to be monitored the entire time. If I open another credit account, the bank will be informed that I’ve been a victim of identity theft.

Actually, I’m sure none of you USCers had a problem — considering the (real) credit union had sent their warning by 9 am PST — which was 5 pm here.

*bangs head against wall*

Identity thieves should burn in hell.

I was just so eager to get my planning done for Spring Break. Fortunately, it’s pretty much all done now (I just need to buy my travel pass for Wales and my Eurail pass). And here is my finalized itinerary:

16 March: Bus to Cardiff (Wales); train to Abergavenny

17 March: Explore Usk Valley, Monmouthsire, Ragan Castle, etc. (night in Abergavenny)

18 March: Cardiff (lots of cool castles nearby!)

19 March: To Brecon in Brecon Beacons National Park; explore area

20 March: Explore park further

21 March: To Llangollen, small town in Welsh countryside

22 March: To the west coast across southern Snowdonia National Park; stop at Harlech Castle before going to Caernarfon (another great castle!)

23 March: Caernarfon, Beaumarais (+ castle), Conwy (+ castle), ending up in Bangor (not Maine)

24 March: Conwy Railway through Snowdonia, ending up in Llanberis, small town at the foot of Snowdon Mountain

25 March: Snowdon Mountain and Llanberis Lake Railways, then going back to Conwy

26 March: To Chester, England (best Roman walls in the country!)

27 March: Bus back to London (via Liverpool); train to Brighton

28 March: Flight to Amsterdam

29 March: Explore Amsterdam (meet up with Tiago?)

30 March: To Brussels

31 March: To Dusseldorf (staying with Angelis)

1 – 3 April: Exploring Dusseldorf area

4 April: To Thin-le-Moutier, near Charleville, France (technically, this is still a question mark – I haven’t heard back from my friend here yet…)

5 April: Excursion to Verdun

6 April: Excursion to Reims

7 April: To Paris (meeting Rachel)

8 April: Easter in Paris! ๐Ÿ™‚

9 April: To Grenoble

10 April: Exploring Grenoble…

11 April: To Annecy

12 April: Looking for Pierre, Jerome, and Mireille (French class joke)

13 April: To Chamonix

14 April: Exploring Chamonix area (Mont Blanc, Aiguille du Midi, La Mer de Glace, etc.)

15 April: To Montreux, Switzerland (with various excursions from there)

16 April: “Golden Pass” Scenic Railway from Montreux to Interlaken; back to Montreux and on to Geneva

17 April: Flight from Geneva to London

How much is this all going to cost me? About $1800. How am I going to afford that? Work my arse off when I get home, I guess. But considering I spent $2500 for a one-week trip in France, $1800 for an entire month across Europe isn’t half bad.

It would actually be less, except that several hostels were sold out (or were located rather far away from the cities themselves), so I had to reserve some B&Bs and hotels (Brecon, Llangollen, Llanberis, and Annecy). I also decided to condense my traveling in France quite a bit…I’ve cut out Auvernge and Provence to spend more time in the Alps (otherwise, I would’ve spent too much time traveling and not enough time in the cities I wanted to go to). I console myself by thinking that I might go back to the South in May or June, provided I can get everything really cheap.

I had to call two B&Bs in Wales to make reservations, and was received by very pleasant Welsh women (although they could’ve been English…they didn’t have noticeable Welsh accents). Actually, when calling the second B&B, the woman’s husband picked up first, who gave the most jolly and enthusiastic Welsh “Hello!” I’ve heard (it’s more of a happy exclamation than a question).

I also called two different hostels in Chamonix. I was worried about talking in French over the phone, except that when the first hostel picked up…the guy was English. Unfortunately, that hostel was already booked, so I had to call another, where a girl answered in French. I decided to speak in English just to make sure that I didn’t screw anything up and accidentally spend 1,000 Euros or something, except that the girl on the phone said she couldn’t understand me, so I switched to French. I didn’t have any problems, so I don’t know what I was worried about to begin with.

Well…that’s pretty much my crazy life at the moment. I’m also going to London this weekend, so expect an update when I come back. ๐Ÿ™‚

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3 Responses to “I feel so…violated.”

  1. J 15 January 2008 at 13:14 #

    Can you give me any more information, like when this happened? I’m seeing WorldAlert checks on the same site now!! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  2. Brian McCullough 19 November 2009 at 06:34 #

    I’m glad you posted this. I just tried to buy a Mega Bus ticket to NYC and my card was declined repeatedly. I immediately started searching the web to see if this is a problem because my card has less than $200 on it and a $6000 limit. Now I know to be on guard. Thank you.

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