Karan Moses Robinson: In tech world, thieves are a step ahead

January 30, 2014 

It was as if Scrooge and the Grinch conspired to ruin the Christmas season for millions of festive shoppers this past Christmas. How else to explain the hacking of Target customers’ personal data, which started before the Thanksgiving turkey was even done, and lasted until Dec. 15?

Names, phone numbers, email addresses, personal identification numbers and mailing addresses from more than 70 million customers were compromised.

I didn’t shop at Target during the holidays, but I don’t believe my personal information is truly safe, not for a minute.

Scrooge and the Grinch transformed from takers to givers, who grew hearts and learned to love their fellow humans, (or at least the Whos in Whoville). I just don’t see a happy ending for the technological world we live in, though, because thieves are a step ahead of the good guys.

Sometimes even the good guys are not so good. Take automatic, or recurring payments, from well-known companies; recent personal events have made me leery of clicking the “Accept” button to allow my payments to be automatically deducted on a certain date. It sounds like a good idea, and even some financial advisers tout it as a way to pay bills on time and to avoid late fees.

But what to do when your balance is zero and a payment is still deducted? This happened to me with a bank, where I had a credit card balance and automatic deductions set up.

When the balance was paid down to zero, that should have been the end of the automatic draft, but lo and behold, the next month the payment was deducted right on time.

Apparently, I hadn’t read the small print about canceling automatic payments or whatever it was they wanted me to believe, but they were kind enough to refund my payment. Of course I had to wait at least five days to get a refund for money I didn’t owe. Needless to say, I’m done with them.

Just last fall I received a call from my bank, informing me that a vendor I’d used had experienced a security breach. The bank didn’t reveal the name, but I found out the vendor was a company with which I’d placed an order of less than $10.

I had to get a new bank card and pin number, which really wasn’t a big deal, but this meant the recurring payments set up with my cable company were interrupted. In my naiveté, I went online and provided them with my new card information, but apparently it wasn’t soon enough.

When they weren’t able to draft on the agreed upon date, they went in a few days later and drafted not one, but two payments, even though only one was due. I couldn’t afford to make two payments in one month, but when I pressed the issue, they said no refund was forthcoming because those were the terms I’d agreed to when I opted for recurring payments.

A review of the terms showed they were right and I was wrong – it was entirely my fault. I’ve since opted out of recurring payments. I wouldn’t touch them with a 39.5-foot pole.

Karan Moses Robinson is a freelancer living in Clover.

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