Nova Scotia man hunts down fraudster who used his stolen credit card info

A Nova Scotia man turned amateur detective to hunt down the person he says tried to defraud him using his credit card information and steal from an American company.

Mike Howell of Dartmouth was working out at the gym last Tuesday when he got a call from CIBC questioning a charge of about $2,300 to his Visa card about an hour before.

Howell told his bank he did not make the purchase, so they cancelled the transaction and his card.

But Howell wasn't content to leave it there. He looked up his Visa statement online and found the name of the company where the order had been placed.

A quick Google search, and Howell was soon talking to a woman at the company in Cleveland who confirmed that someone had used his credit card to purchase generators.

The company did not know the credit card transaction had been cancelled until they were alerted by Howell. The generators were crated up and waiting for UPS to collect them. The woman told Howell they were destined for an address in Pointe-Claire, Que.

Back to Google.

Howell found that the address in Pointe Claire didn't exist. Armed with this information, Howell called RCMP in Montreal. They referred him to Montreal city police.

"So I called there, and listened to their phone prompts and hit one for this, hit two for that," Howell said.

"And as I was going through listening to their prompts, actually it was cut off, the phone. The line went dead so I called back, did it a second time and it was just, it was a process that was very inhibiting and eventually I gave up and hung up the phone."

Finding 'Jordan'

But Howell didn't give up the chase. The woman in Cleveland had given him a name and phone number connected to the generator order.

Howell went to Google a third time and discovered the phone number was associated with a business in Toronto. He called the number and asked to speak to Jordan, the name he'd been given by the woman in Cleveland.

Howell said when the man answered the phone, it didn't sound like a professional office. But the man confirmed he was Jordan. Howell said Jordan also confirmed the generator order but he grew silent when Howell told him there was a problem with the shipping address.

"I said, 'Jordan, what credit card did you use?'" Howell said. "And then he hung up on me."

More phone problems

Howell tried to register a complaint with Halifax Regional Police. He was referred to their fraud section, got lost in a phone tree again, became frustrated and gave up.

A spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police, Const. Carol McIsaac, said they have no record of Howell's complaint. But she also said it's not clear from the details of the case whether it would have been a case for Halifax or Montreal police.

But Howell wasn't done. He called the Toronto number again.

"Knowing that I wasn't going to accomplish much I just was messing with him. I said, 'Jordan, are you going to be there for an hour,' and he hung up on me."

Pleased with bank

While he was frustrated with his experience trying to report this case to police, he's grateful for the fast action by his bank.

"CIBC proactively identifies unusual transactions that may indicate fraudulent activities on a credit card wherever possible," bank spokesperson Caroline Van Hasselt said in an email to CBC News.  

Howell is at a loss to understand how his credit card information got out. It could have been stolen weeks or even months ago and the crooks had just waited for the opportune moment.

Howell said he was careful with his credit card before but now he's "paranoid." He worries that things like automatic charges to his card — for his gym membership for example — could make him vulnerable to hacking.

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Nova Scotia man hunts down fraudster who used his stolen credit card info