Hair extensions, and how to get away with credit card fraud
By Jelisa Castrodale - April 12, 2017
I had no idea that hair extensions were so expensive. I’m scrolling through pages and pages of luxurious for-sale bundles of hair, each one radiating from a disembodied head. In the past hour, I’ve learned about lace frontals and closures, about how to mimic a natural hairline and the difference between a body wave and a beach wave. I’ve also learned that someone tried to buy $443 worth of both waves with my credit card.
This is the second large purchase that has been thrown toward my unsuspecting Visa balance, all without my consent. I knew something terrible had happened when my phone rang before 8 a.m. last Saturday morning. Actually, I knew something terrible had happened when my phone rang at all; my friends and I have reached the point where we communicate almost exclusively through Snapchat, mostly because it has a number of photo filters that smooth out our forehead wrinkles. Anyway, I answered the phone and someone from the credit card company asked if I’d just spent an even $100 at Sonic Drive-In. (And, honestly, based on the amount of Wendy’s meals that I end up paying 19 percent APR on, I’m surprised that they flagged that as fraudulent.) I told them no, they canceled the card, and I thought it was over.
Two days later, I found out about the hair extensions.
On Monday morning, the thief was still out there, using my account to fill in the holes in her patchy scalp. The owner of the hair extension website texted me and told me that my order hadn’t gone through. My order, because this nimble-fingered nightmare was using my contact information, spelling my name better than some men I’ve dated.
She’d texted me right at the start of my workday and, although I enjoy procrastinating, it’s more like Googling “Who sang the ‘Perfect Strangers’ theme song,” (David Pomeranz, btw) than spinning my office chair in slow, angry circles while I wait for a call back from the Winston-Salem Police Department. I finally talked to a bored-sounding civilian who takes calls on the non-emergency number, and she couldn’t have been less interested if I’d just dialed the department to tell them that I’d just seen a particularly large butterfly.
She dutifully took my information and punctuated most of my sentences with an audible sigh. “It’s fraud,” I said, using my best victim voice. “It’s theft! It’s the principle of the situation!” She paused, waiting for me to finish, before giving me a report number. It felt perfunctory and unhelpful, the exchanging of phone numbers after a charisma-free date.
I hung up the phone, feeling dejected, angry and dismissed. According to CNBC, hacked credit-card fraud was projected to add up to $4 billion last year and my kind of fraud — known as card-not-present fraud — was expected to be the most prevalent. I hate being that kind of statistic, and I hate that there’s someone out there ordering hair clumps and hamburgers on my dime (or, more accurately, on 5,530 of my dimes). I spun my chair in the most furious possible way, before deciding to go rogue.
I called the company that sold the hair extensions and gave the owner my story — and my police report number. She was sympathetic enough to tell me the name of the person who placed the order, along with her email and IP addresses. This energized me and, for almost five solid minutes, I felt like a combination of Nancy Drew and the “Dateline” subjects who don’t end up in a shallow grave beside disused playground equipment. I thanked her profusely and told her that, if I ever needed a 360-degree lace frontal, I’d get in touch.
When I called the WSPD back, I was connected to the same uninterested civilian I’d spoken to before. I gave her the hair thief’s name and her address, in Jersey City, NJ. “That’s their problem,” she said, as I listened to her fingers clicking on her keyboard. “She lives there, she’s not our problem.”
“But she’s my problem,” I insisted. “And I live here.”
It didn’t matter. So I called the Jersey City Police Department and talked to another listless civilian, except this one had an accent sharp enough to grate cheese with.
“You don’t live in Jersey City,” she asked, after I told the story down to the ends of the fraudulent lace frontals. “Because if you don’t live here, then it’s Winston-Salem’s problem.”
I pressed mute so she wouldn’t hear me chew through my own tongue, before telling her “They said it’s on you.”
“Look, I’m sorry for what you’re going through,” she said, sounding 0 percent sorry. “But I don’t know you. For all I know, you’re trying to get back at your neighbor by telling me about all of her wigs.”
“They were hair extensions,” I said, like accuracy was the real problem. I hung up.
There was nothing else I could do. My new best friend at the WSPD said that, if she had to, she’d type up a report and give it to the fraud department. No, she couldn’t guarantee they’d follow up on it. No, I couldn’t give it to them in person. No, I couldn’t meet a real-life police dog.
I dropped my head into my hands and rubbed my temples the way people do in yellowing print ads for headache powders. Nothing was going to happen and I felt like I’d been let down by my own idea of what police officers are supposed to do, which is admittedly based on a combination of Mariska Hargitay characters and Kindergarten Cop. (On the flipside, if you’ve ever considered stealing someone’s credit card, go ahead! There are zero repercussions, other than making time for all the compliments you’ll get on those sweet-ass hair extensions.)
Ten minutes later, I got a text message. Did I just spend $9.99 on iTunes, yes or no? I didn’t respond. It doesn’t matter, either way.
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