My stolen credit card details were used 4,500 miles away. I tried to find out how it happened (cover story PDF)

When cybersecurity reporter Danny Palmer found his card was apparently used on another continent, he set out to discover more.

This download provides the magazine version of the article as a free PDF for registered TechRepublic and ZDNet members. The online version of this story is available here.

From the story:

On a Thursday back in February I was relaxing and watching TV when my evening was interrupted by the ping of a text message from my bank.

“You will shortly receive an SMS to confirm recent activity on your card.”

I was puzzled. I certainly hadn’t made any strange or unexpected purchases that day, so what was this about? About 30 seconds later, I received my answer in a second text message.

It said my credit card details had been used less than a minute before to try to make a payment of £108 at a store with an unfamiliar name.

A quick search online revealed it to be a supermarket in the city of Paramaribo, Suriname – a small country on the north-eastern coast of South America, bordered by Brazil, Guyana and French Guiana. That’s quite a long way from my home in London, so I was pretty sure I hadn’t popped into that store to pick anything up in the last 60 seconds.

The alert asked me to confirm the transaction by replying with ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ It did cross my mind that perhaps this was a double- or triple-bluff scam and that by responding to an unexpected text message I would be making a big mistake. Just in case I chose to phone the bank instead.

They confirmed that yes, someone had attempted to use my card details over 4,500 miles away from London – but the attempted payment was blocked as suspicious so no money was stolen.

I cancelled my card and ordered a new one as the recommended safety precaution, given someone else had my details. But as a reporter I was left wondering how did this happen?

How was it that my bank details were somehow stolen, passed onto someone on the other side of the world and almost successfully used at what looked to be a small retailer in Suriname?

Download the PDF to read the rest of the story.

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