Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, August 06, 2010

Fool Me Twice, Shame On You Again

Someone wanted $225 worth of clocks and watches giftwrapped and shipped to Miami via 2nd Day Air. It’s a little suspicious when somebody wants a big order right away...but one-stop gift shopping has been part of Curio City’s core concept from the beginning. With a US destination and a signature required on delivery, it didn’t look shady. The only red flag from my credit card processor’s “MaxMind” fraud control was an IP address in Venezuela…and lots of Miami residents have Central or South American roots. Since the MaxMind score was below the fraud tripwire, I wrapped everything and shipped it off at once.

That night a second large charge on a different card from the same customer was denied. The next morning the identical order went through successfully on a third credit card.

Oh, crap. This guy is laundering stolen cards. That initial order is going to come back as a chargeback, sure as hell. But at least this time I figured it out in time to stop further losses. I canceled the second order and voided the charge. My thief struck several more times as the day wore on, always with orders of $200 or more and always with a different credit card. When I figured out how to blacklist his IP address, he went away…for half a day. Ultimately I had to block four Venezuelan IP addresses and void three charges before he moved on to greener pastures.

Then a light bulb lit up: UPS has a package intercept option! For $11 I could have it returned to sender and refund the charge. Total loss to me: $69.92 for UPS shipping, plus $11 for the intercept, plus roughly $5 in AVS fees for all those credit card authorization checks, plus another $8 to process the original charge and its reversal. Call it $93. Without the intercept, I’d have lost the $225 charge and eaten a $25 chargeback fee. (The five-day interval between the charge and the refund still makes me nervous about a chargeback being generated, but I’d probably win a challenge if it does occur).

It’s screwed up when a $93 loss counts as a victory over the forces of evil. $93 is more than I earn in a bad week. But at least I’m learning how to spot the enemy and how to use the anti-fraud tools at my disposal. I’m not sure what the thief gained from all that activity – he wasn’t really after boxes of random merchandise from Curio City. Presumably he validated his stolen credit card numbers. Now what’s he do, sell them to somebody else? The only unambiguous winner in this go-round is UPS.


After having Earthlink as our home ISP since 1997, I finally switched from DSL at 3 Mbps to cable internet at 15 Mbps. Sweet! Our municipal electric company is our new ISP. The taxpayer-owned nonprofit, which has fewer than 4,000 customers, now carries our phone, internet, and cable TV as well as our electric service. It’s really nice dealing with Donna on Quincy Avenue instead of some kid in India.


Not speaking any other languages myself, I generally refrain from mocking foreigners’ mangled English. But this one is worth sharing: “Don't make yourself regret by slipping through the chance from your fingers.”

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