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Robbed Again

Last time there was no physical confrontation. This time there was even less – the crime was happening on the other side of the world. I thought it was about time that I checked my HSBC account, to see if I needed to transfer some more money to my cheque account. Hmmm, that balance looks a bit low…let’s see what the transaction listing looks like…WTF? There’s twelve transactions over the last 3 days, all in the London area, at Tescos, Sainsburys, House of Fraser, etc. Total value £632. But hang on a minute – I’m here in Australia, and I’ve still got that card in my pocket. All of those transactions were ones that required the cardholder to be physically present. It’s not like someone has used my debit card number online somewhere – someone has created a copy of my card.

The UK now uses the Chip and PIN system, which makes me wonder a bit what’s going on. Older systems using only a magnetic stripe could be cloned, as my old university buddy Scott has found out. But the use of a microchip on the card should stop this happening. Did someone somewhere pick up a copy of my magnetic data and PIN, presumably from a tampered terminal I’ve used somewhere, and then create a cloned card, which was swiped on older terminals in the UK? The other thing is that I’m due to get a new card this month – has someone gotten hold of the new card, and the expiry/start dates overlap? Interestingly, most of the transactions took place at businesses not far from where I used to live in Croydon.

All pretty frustrating, especially when you’re trying to sort it out from the other side of the world. I used my UK mobile to call HSBC, hoping that I would have enough credit, and that I wouldn’t be on hold too long, and get cut off halfway through. Luckily I got it sorted out, and the account has been stopped, and they’ll be sending a new card out to me. That’s a bit of a pain, since they normally want you to go to your primary branch to pick it up. My home branch is on Oxford Street, London, so it’s a bit impractical. Apparently they’re going to send it to the branch, then get the branch to send it to an address I specify.

No word on when I’ll get my money back though. They’re going to open a disputed transactions ticket, and hopefully things will get sorted out. They’ll want to call me though, which will presumably be a middle of the night call (UK/Aus timezone difference thing). I figure that I’ve got a pretty rock solid case though – two days before the dodgy transactions started, I withdrew money in Adelaide, and I’ve got passport stamps to prove that I’ve been in Australia for this time period, so hopefully it will all be sorted out without too much pain.

I made it to Mt Gambier, roughly halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne. The weather was packing up, so I decided to take a day off here, and hole up a bit. Given that I’ve been trying to sort this stuff out, and that the weather was still poor today, and not least of all that it was a very busy night out in town last night with the Cup Carnival…I decided to take another day off. Looks like strong westerlies for the next few days, so I should be able to get to Melbourne by Thursday.

Hopefully it doesn’t stay cold though – I had to wear the full-finger gloves, jacket, skullcap and Buff all day, with that sartorial crime, socks and sandals. I realised that part of my problem is that I’ve gone too far south – I am now further south than home. I need to head slightly north of east to get home. That’s the first time I’ve had to go north since I started.

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