Monday, April 26, 2010

Scamming us 5 dollars at a time

We received a letter from our bank asking us to call them regarding suspicious activity on our credit card (VISA prompted the request to my bank). Our credit card was also put on hold.

The bank said VISA highlighted 6 recent charges. I was able to verify 5 of them (groceries, gift purchases on Amazon, a rug). All but one was under 20 dollars. But the last charge didn't look familiar. It was for $4.91 and billed by a company called I looked up the web site and found a company selling screen savers. Not something I would buy, and my wife or kids didn't remember buying anything (my 8 year old said, "um, I don't even know how to buy something online".) I even looked for new screen savers on the PC but found nothing.

I called the phone number on the web site but got a message to use a support email. Not very promising.

So, I did some google searches and found out this is indeed a scam. Looks like it is an outfit that makes small charges, I assume hoping most people won't notice.

This was the most interesting and detailed link on the scam.

I have no idea whatsoever how they obtained our credit card number. We cancelled the card of course and will get a new one (what a hassle). I'll submit a fraud report just to get another one on the record.

A few interesting things to note:

1. We really should review our credit card in more detail each month
2. Interesting that this organization with access to credit cards is scamming five dollars at a time. They must really make it up in volume.
3. I have to assume that it was this specific line item that flagged VISA. My bank said VISA won't tell you why they flagged something (I asked). But the other items were small amounts and/or from local retailers. So I also have to assume there has been enough reports to get this on VISA's radar.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Making of Man

We took the whole family to New York City for a weekend and one of our stops was the Museum of Natural History. There was a section on Neanderthals with a video showing some anthropologists constructing a model of a head from a skeleton remain. The video showed the detail they used in making a replica skull and then layering on material that mimicked the muscles, the skin and so on. It was pretty detailed and in the end rather lifelike.

My six year old watched it, turned to me, and asked, “Dad, is that how they made me?”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Understand the Economic Mess for Two Dollars

This American Life, the NPR Radio program, produced two excellent shows that explain in pretty simple and plain language, some of the reasons behind the current economic mess.

If you subscribe to the podcast, you received them for free (I think they are free for a week or something), but if you didn't you can purchase each for under a buck. While I am no where near an expert and I certainly have not read or listened to all coverage, I've read a fair amount in the mainstream press like Newsweek, the Atlantic, and my local paper, but these podcasts probably do the best job of laying out the situation that I've seen. And you can listen to them in your car, or while running, or even while trying to obtain a subprime mortgage without a salary.

Check them out:

Friday, February 27, 2009

Government form fun

I wanted to send a letter to my congressperson, Allyson Schwartz, and of course, since I cannot write letters, I opted to use email. Her web site has a nice "Send me an email" link.

I clicked on that to see a form. I started to enter in my information, and the form requires that I enter my 9 digit zip code. Who really knows the last four digits? Screw that. I proceed with the form. Oh-uh.

I get this.
I repeat, it says, "Nothing which you have entered into the form will be saved." Pretty steep for not knowing those last four digits. Are we that concerned with someone outside the district contacting the representative? How about a redraw of the form with a red warning to enter in the digits?

There is of course no link or instruction to get back to the form. I use the browser back button (something I don't think anyone should really need to do...)

Ok, so the form includes a link to find your 9 digit zip code. I haven't seen this guy in a while. Nice to see he is till around. Of course, you need to go through 3 pages to get to your zip. And, now I am at the post office site with no easy way to get back (well, except for that back button).

So I click back three times and am now back at the form. I enter in my information and my note. Submit. Now this:

Hunh? Oh, I see this at the bottom of the form:

Underline? How about an asterisk? How about redrawing the form with red warnings around the items I did not fill out. And why is my "prefix" a required field. Does that matter at all? And how am I supposed to even see these underlines?

Not a horrible experience but not an easy one for sure.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Originally uploaded by estevenson
Wonderland in Ocean City, NJ.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Were they robots?

I was putting my 6 year old child, (we'll refer to her as "E"), down to bed the other night. We were talking about some trivial things and playing our nightly game of thinking of words that start with a certain letter (tonight we were on "E"), when right before I was about to leave she asked, "Who was the first person born? I know you were born before me, but who was the first person *ever* born?"

This was pretty heady stuff for a few minutes past bed time. I didn't think it was the appropriate time to talk about evolution, so I decided to say "No one really knows." I thought that was a bit uninspiring so I topped it off by mentioning Adam and Eve. I told her about a story in the bible that says the first people were Adam and Eve.

For some reason I certainly cannot explain (which happens often with E), she immediately asked, "were they robots?"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Very expensive phone calls

I made some phone calls recently. Probably around 5 or 6. Most were local; maybe 2 were to DC. A few minutes each. They cost me about $40 each.

A few months ago, I signed up for SunRocket, the VoiP provider. I decided to take the option to prepay for the year. And now they are out of business! I doubt I am getting that money back.