Credit Card Fraud and The Social Web
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10 March 2010Jacob Jegher
Last Friday I got a call from the fraud department of my credit card company asking me about several transactions. None of them were made by me and I declared them to be fraudulent. We went through the usual motions - card cancelled, new card will be sent in the mail, I am not responsible for the fraudulent transactions. I didn't think much of it all, but did wonder where the fraud originated from since this is a card that I rarely use. Yesterday I saw a tweet from @Monoprice talking about an investigation they were conducting due to customer complaints about credit card fraud. Interestingly enough, I had made a couple of recent transactions at Monoprice (I am a total gadget guy, and this is the best place to get HDMI cables) and started to wonder if this could be the source of the fraud on this occasionally used card. What interested me about this situation was how the web was being used for status updates and how this can make or break the reputation of a business. When I got the call from the credit card fraud department, I had no idea where the fraud originated from. I happen to follow Monoprice on Twitter and noticed the update. They have a large following on Facebook as well and decided to use these sites to keep their customers informed. Should Monoprice have contacted me directly to inform me that I may have fraudulent transactions on my account or rely on mass communication channels like Twitter and Facebook? Or, should the fraud departments of the credit card companies be taking care of customer communication? My take is that it's good business for merchants to use channels like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the public. I am also very thankful that the credit card fraud department picked this up. At this point, Monoprice has yet to confirm that there was a breach of some sort. In fact, their preliminary investigation shows that no credit card information has been stolen from them (see the message on Monoprice.com). The fact is however, that exposing the possibility of a breach to the public yielded a slew of people who experienced credit card fraud after shopping at Monoprice (see the posts on Facebook). This likely is not a coincidence. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if the public will ever even find out if an actual breach took place. However, now that all the dirty laundry is out hanging on Facebook, it will be hard for this merchant to balance the merits of the social web with the damage to its reputation.