Back in June this year I received my Visa statement through the post but since I hardly use the card I left the letter on the desk for a few days. The balance isn’t that much and I had already set up payment to occur later in June. I also tend to access the account details via the web and had recently checked the status after my last online purchase.
I tend to make a purchase and then set up a payment for the same amount to occur the following month.

One of the reasons for doing this is that:

  • The money stays in my account for longer gaining me interest.

  • I automatically get protection against online fraud by using the credit card.

  • The purchase is protected by the credit consumer act.
  • About a week later I was going through some paperwork and came across the statement and opened it in preparation to file it away. What I didn’t expect to see was the amount I reckoned on, plus another £3,750.

    Having come down from the ceiling I began to wonder what I had purchased in the last few weeks for that amount and scanned the list for the £3,750. There it was against #BETFAIR LONDON back at the end of the month.
    At that time I had never heard of BETFAIR but I think you could guess it was something to do with a Bookmakers. As it happens, since I have been watching the Test Cricket, BETFAIR have been splashed all over the place and even the blimp that provides the aerial coverage is sponsored by Betfair.
    One thing I did know is that neither me or the wife had made a purchase with Betfair. I wasn’t really worried about it since I knew that I am extremely careful when it comes to online credit card usage. I also knew for a fact that this card had never left the house and was only used for online purchases.

    I phone the credit card company who looked after my Visa account who promptly apologized there and then, and credited back any interest calculated on the amount and promised to begin an investigation. The following month the £3,750 was credited back to my account and there ended my responsibility for it. The credit card company had sent a questionnaire which I had completed and sent back and were conducting their own investigation.

    After phoning them today to see how far they had gone with their investigations mainly because I wanted to know more about how this could have happened just incase I had contributed to it in some way. The only way I could think of this happening is if one of my previous online purchases had involved the credit card number being used by someone at that company. This narrowed it down to only two purchases that did not use the Verified by Visa process but after looking in to those companies it didn’t seem likely to me.

    As it transpired, the purchase was made either online at the Betfair web site, or via the phone. Even the Visa company cannot be sure of that at this time. What they are sure of is that Betfair did not follow the industry accepted practice of customer verification. They only required the Visa Card number and didn’t have a name or address. This makes the credit card company think that one of the Credit Card Random Number generators was used to create a sequence of credit card numbers.
    Most credit cards have a fixed number of digits followed by what is meant to be 10 random digits (which are in fact a known sequence, but its not meant to be known by you or I). Had Betfair requested other user identification the transaction would not have taken place since who ever made the purchase only had this ‘made up number’ and no other details. So the blame lies fairly at the hands of Betfair, who my credit card company will be claiming the £3,750 back from in the near future.

    I would like to follow this up with Betfair and find out how they could allow this to happen. You can bet that for every person who finds an unknown amount on their statement, there are those that don’t bother to check their statements that closely. Obviously this was quite a large transaction and stuck out quite obviously, but how many people check ALL of their transactions. If you use your credit card a lot, as most people do these days, I doubt that all of use pay attention to the smaller purchases.

    Just imaging you generated a million random credit card numbers and charged just a £1 to each of those accounts. It is not an amount that is likely to jump out at you when checking your statement but it soon adds up. Obviously it should be quite easy to follow the trail back to wherever the money is being paid into.

    In my instance, I would like to know how someone can open a Betfair account, pay in £3,750 in credit and then use that account. How are any winnings paid? Into some foreign account that can’t be traced. This seems like a great method of money laundering, or in fact a nice litter earner for the fraudsters. I have not checked into Betfair too much, but I wonder how much information is required to open an account. I suspect that very little if any verification is performed, else this incident would never have happened in the first place.

    I would say if you were going to Bet Fair, then they should play by the rules. I don’t believe them to be the only ones who are suffering from this problem either as there has been a large increase in this type of online activity in the past few years.

    I will be writing to BetFair to see what they have to say about the matter, but I won’t be able to discuss the specifics with them because of the potential Police investigation being taken. It should be interesting to hear their side of the story… I’ll post more details when they get back to me.