Tuesday morning, I logged on to americanexpress.com and noticed a charge for $720 on my American Express card from hpshopping.com, HP's e-commerce site. Uh oh! Fraud! I quickly checked my account with HP to make sure that I hadn't accidentally sleep-ordered a new laptop - and no, nothing in my account. So I called AmEx, disputed the charge... and then figured it wouldn't hurt to call HP as well. I quickly got hold of a very friendly agent who explained that the order number would show up on the AmEx Web site, which it did, so I was able to find the "billing address" used by the person that ordered the laptop... which turned out to be on Florida Street in San Diego. Same ZIP code as mine, just a few blocks over and to the north. Curious!
I then called the San Diego police department, who were amazingly quick and efficient. It only took a few minutes to file the initial report on Tuesday morning; then, their mail fraud department called back on Wednesday morning asking for all the details, which I had already prepared in a series of PDF files documenting everything (the AmEx charge, the HP order, the shipping address, the FedEx tracking number).
A few hours later, they called back to say that they had all of the warrants in place and had already contacted FedEx to interrupt the shipment shortly before delivery so that a San Diego police officer in a FedEx uniform could deliver the package - and arrest the person who had fraudulently ordered it. Cool!
This morning, the SDPD detective called me and asked if I'd ever heard of someone with a last name of Putney. Er, no? Well, it appears that Tania told the "FedEx employee" confirming delivery that she was waiting at home for her boyfriend, Christopher Pratt, who wasn't going to be there to get his new HP laptop. I laughed and said "well, if you check county records, you'll see I'm married to a dude named Daniel, so I'm pretty sure she's not my girlfriend." The detective laughed, thanked me again, and promised he'd get back to me later on.
About an hour ago, the cops made the delivery. Turns out Tania isn't the real perp here, just another dumb person who saw an ad on Craiglist and/or responded to some phishing E-mail that promised her sixty bucks if she'd accept an incoming package and reroute it to an address in Moscow. This is the third time she'd done it and she apparently had no idea that (shock! gasp!) there might actually be something, you know, illegal about accepting random packages addressed to random strangers and sending them on to someone in Russia. I'm not sure on the details of what happens next, but I'm guessing that Tania is now suitably chastised and educated and won't be doing this kind of thing again; in the meantime, the Feds have been called in and will be adding this incident to what I can only imagine is a fairly long list of similar incidents.
The moral of the story is this: buy a shredder (it probably woudn't have prevented this, but it's not a bad idea), check your recent transactions online daily, notify everyone involved immediately if you see a fraudulent transaction on your account, and if Russians ever offer you sixty bucks to accept a package and re-send it to Moscow, it's probably not legit, so please don't do it!