We did this together.

It only took 12 hours after posting before the email showed up:

“Dear Xbox LIVE Customer:
We have refunded your account 124.98. Refunds will be processed within the next 10 business days, but may take up to 30 days after we complete our investigations before they appear on your credit card billing statement.”

This is clearly a form letter, I haven’t been contacted personally, but it will suffice. Thank you to everyone for an overwhelming show of support and propagation. You have a voice on the internet, and it can be pretty powerful. Response has been very positive across the board.

I’d like to extend extra thanks to Pete Davison at GamePro for getting this into the mainstream press. Word traveled fast and far when he posted his writeup, and I think he made a big difference in getting action from Microsoft.

Microsoft: Thank you for doing the right thing. Good customer service involves a certain benefit of the doubt. If I tell Amazon that I never got a package or that something was missing from the box, they send a new one, no questions asked, all at their loss. You don’t have that problem. This cost you nothing to fix. People adore Amazon; give them reason to adore you, too.

I received another email from “Synovate on behalf of Microsoft”. It’s a survey that I suppose everyone with a (resolved) Customer Support issue gets. You know what? Maybe it’s best not to get them involved. I think Microsoft got the message.


Bonus Round! Fight! I mean, FAQ!

I’ve read a few questions/comments in response to the article that I thought I could address…

Q: This person bought points for your account? I don’t get it.
A: The idea is to buy the points/games and then take ownership of the account. Apparently this is a common problem (which I’m now discovering through feedback).

Q: You should have taken it up with your credit card company first thing, instead of Microsoft.
A: I thought this would be a simple matter, and wouldn’t need to get the bank involved. I knew they would want to cancel the card (even though the number was not compromised) and I’d be without my primary source of payments. And actually, the bank’s policy is for you to try to work it out with the merchant first.

Q: Screw the bank’s policy. Put them to work for you, it’s much easier than convincing the merchant.
A: If we’re talking about the Best Buy down the street, sure. But services that you have money and time invested in? Try to do a charge-back on Steam sometime and see how much longer you own that account and all the games you bought. Purveyors of virtual goods have become notorious for their unfriendly return policies, much more so than traditional retail stores. For services that we tend to think of as being “ahead of the curve”, it seems like a step back.

Q: The perpetrator never saw the credit card number, and you were in possession of your card the whole time. That’s not fraud.
A: The bank’s definition is any transaction that is “made on this account without approval, knowledge or consent of the cardholder(s), who did not receive benefit from it (them).” It allows for situations where the card remained in possession.

Q: So what if you lose the account? You only have two games and a Gamerscore of 755.
A: It’s not much, but it’s home. I would completely lose access to one game that I paid for, and I would lose my saves for the other. It would not be the end of the world, no, but I shouldn’t have to lose my Live identity and my games. It’s wasn’t my preferred method of action, and it’s the principle of the matter.

Q: This sounds like a communication breakdown, and some phone rep just screwed up. That can’t be their policy. It just can’t.
A: I do hope so. The confusion in the air over my lack of a console and what Games for Windows Live even was makes me think it likely. I had to explain to confused operators who then had to pass on their muddled information to another team who was in charge of approving or denying. I had a similar experience with the bank rep, but they gave me the benefit of the doubt.

Q: Microsoft needs your Xbox’s serial number because they can see from which device things were purchased. If it was all done on PC, they can’t do that, thus the only solution is disputing the charge with your bank.
A: A “Come and get us” policy? My point from the very beginning is that if the entire breadth of Microsoft’s customer service relies on the presence of an Xbox, it is flawed. Microsoft is integrating Live on Windows into Window 8, with a fully stocked Marketplace. Are they ready?

Q: 42 Xbox 360 games but no 360? What kind of weirdo are you? That’s almost suspicious, even. Are you for real?
A: It’s a “bargain addiction” thing. I spend a lot of time on CheapAssGamer.com. If I see a game that I know I want to play someday, I’ll buy it if the price is low enough to make me think, “It’ll be years before it’s that low again.” Now that my backlog is in the hundreds, I tend to aim for $10 or less. I think of it as an investment, or a retirement fun(d). On CAG, it’s really not such a strange thing to see. I’ll write more about my collection in the near future.

Xbox Live Account Hacked? Credit Fraud? No Customer Service If We Don’t Consider You A Customer, says Microsoft.

I apologize for the lengthiness in getting to the point in this article, but I feel that it’s important to precisely describe the situation that lead up to why Microsoft does not consider some of us to actually be their customers, and how they will therefore turn a blind eye to credit card fraud and account hijacking on their online service.


Hi. My name is Greg.

You can find me on Xbox Live using the Gamertag “Gregalor”. However, I almost positively won’t be online and if I am I won’t be able to play any games with you. Confused? So is Xbox Live Support and their fraud investigation team.

You see, I primarily play games on the PC and I don’t actually own an Xbox 360 yet (due more to lack of money than lack of desire, and already having a backlog to get through). You may have heard that Live on PC is a thing that exists; but probably not. In fact, its usage is required to play certain games. If you take a look at my all-time Live activity, you’ll see a scant duo of titles: Batman Arkham Asylum (which requires Live) and Viva Pinata (which was on sale for 99 cents, and opened the door for $125 in unresolved fraudulent activity on my account).

It's okay, you can laugh.

It was Tuesday morning, August 23 and I was toiling away at my office job when I decided to take a break to check my email. At the top of my inbox were two bizarre emails from billing@microsoft.com.

“Purchase confirmation for Xbox Live 6000 Microsoft Points bundle”
“Purchase confirmation for Xbox Live 4000 Microsoft Points bundle”

Uhhh, what? I think I would know if I had spent $125 on Microsoft Fun Bucks, quite a feat for not being in front of a computer at the time of purchase. My brain went to Code Yellow as my first thoughts were of phishing schemes or spam. Ignorable. The only way to be sure was to head over to xbox.com and, more importantly, to check my bank account.

What are these, and what do I do with them?

Okay, yes, that is certainly 10,000 virtual monies in my “created-because-I-had-to” Xbox Live account. And my bank account is indeed missing $125. How did this happen? Oh, right, I had a credit card on file from when I bought Viva Pinata on a whim during a 99 cent sale. Did some well-meaning hacker crack my login credentials and buy Points with my Visa, figuring that I could really do with some right about now? What’s the point? It’s still my account. Wait… Oh no…

Code Red.

I quickly visited the Password Reset section of my account. I still had access, but for how much longer? The page loaded and my fears were confirmed. There it was, the address “mustaefr@guerrillamail.com” sitting in the “Alternate Email Address” field like a cancer, ready and waiting to have a password reset confirmation mailed to it. This is why it was pure providence that I checked my email when I did. GuerrillaMail is a service that provides temporary, anonymous, free email addresses that people can use to register for websites without fear of signing up for spam; it’s also very popular for less-than-honest purposes. I knew that whoever it was, he was sitting on that account page, too, both of us occupying the same private space in separate dimensions.

Immediately I removed the alternate email address, re-confirmed my own email address, changed my security question, removed my credit card, and changed my account password. Then I called Live Support to get what I figured would be a simple refund on unused virtual goods. Little did I know that my money would instead be trapped in a month-long limbo of mistrust.


Upon calling, I explained the situation and was commended for my prompt re-securing of the account. The operator seemed at odds with what to make of the fact that I had a Live account but not their console, which caused me a chuckle. Games for Windows Live has become reputable in the PC gaming community for being neglected and mismanaged by Microsoft, but here was their Support staff seemingly ignorant of its very existence.

The operator gave a knowing “Ahhhh, yes” when I mentioned GuerrillaMail; she was familiar with this tactic. She explained that my account would be locked for security reasons for a few weeks while a fraud investigation took place. I was optimistic that their records would show the suspicious activity that I had described, proving that I hadn’t been the one to make the purchase. I was reassured not to worry, that my chances were good. I had expected the refund to be a swifter process, but I was told that this was the standard procedure. An annoyance, but fine, corporate bureaucracy, I get it.


A month went by. Monday, September 19, the email arrived.

“Your report of unauthorized access to your Xbox LIVE account was reviewed by our fraud investigations team. We’re pleased to let you know that we found no evidence of unauthorized access to your account. “

Yeah, I’ll bet you’re pleased.

So I called, of course, having to re-explain everything. This operator was also somewhat flustered by my lack of their precious box. I didn’t even care about the security breach, I took care of that myself; all I wanted was for them to change the number “10,000” on a screen to a “0” and give my money back. Back to square one, no harm, no foul. I didn’t see why a month-long investigation was necessary for a standard retail scenario that takes place in millions of stores every day.

After being put on hold twice for about 30 minutes, I was ultimately told flat-out that nothing could be done, that their investigation could not proceed because I didn’t own an Xbox. That’s right. They don’t consider me to be their customer, they don’t have time for me because I didn’t buy an Xbox 360. Never mind that they have 125 of my dollars and I have a very large sum of virtual currency that is useless to me. I don’t own the device on which they are redeemed. That’s like buying my 60 year old technophobe mother a $125 iTunes gift card.

I was told that what I must do is convince my bank that these are fraudulent charges, and have them do a charge-back. If that’s the next step, so be it, but now I’m worried as to what sort of standing that will leave my Live account in. Will I someday buy an Xbox to then find out that my account was banned? No longer able to use that Gamertag? Forced to start my Gamerscore over from 0? My Arkham Asylum save files (which are stupidly tied to your Live account) rendered inoperable? The copy of Viva Pinata that I purchased from the Live Marketplace (I guess that doesn’t count in their book) no longer under my ownership? Thank god I haven’t yet gotten around to purchasing the Minerva’s Den DLC for Bioshock 2, or started the time-sink game Fallout 3, or I’d be worried about my future access to those, as well. They assured me that a bank charge-back would have no negative impact on my account, but my confidence in their word is understandably shaky.

Be warned, 360 users. If someone hacks your Live account some day and buys Fruit Ninja HD on your dime, you may want to think twice about telling Microsoft that you didn’t buy a Kinect.


Microsoft: If this is indeed your hacking/fraud policy, I find it disturbing. It is not acceptable to ignore credit card fraud that was committed on your service on the grounds that the victim doesn’t own the device that you want them to own. It costs you nothing to simply reset some intangible numbers, refund some money, and let bygones be bygones. This could have been a very simple matter, but now look at what I’ve had to do. By the time you read this it will be too late for you to make good; the bank will have already been notified. I don’t get by on a lot of extra money after debts and bills are factored in. And yet I was very understanding of your procedure, waiting a month, a month when I really could have used that money. But you blew it.

It is too late for you to make good of your own volition so now it’s my turn to take my money back. You didn’t even lose any product to whoever committed the fraud, so I leave public shaming to be your punishment. I hope everyone who reads this is as appalled as I am at how flippant and uncooperative you were over a serious matter like credit fraud.

Why are unused non-physical products becoming increasingly harder to return than physical ones?

No. Fucking. Shit.


Greg Knight lives in Los Angeles with his wife and cat. He doesn’t own a 360, but he does own an original Xbox and 39 games for it, 42 Xbox 360 games (ready to play when he finally buys a 360), a wired 360 controller for PC games (some of which are published by Microsoft Studios), and a Windows 7 upgrade disc. He thinks he has spent plenty of money on Microsoft.


UPDATE: Less than a day later, the issue was resolved. Thanks for all your help!

Welcome to Gregalor.com! Welcome to your doom!

Hi, welcome to Gregalor.com! Who am I? My name is Greg Knight, just a 29-year-old nobody who enjoys video games as my primary hobby. Well, maybe it transcends hobby status; I take it pretty seriously as an art form and I find something of value even in little experimental games that most gamers wouldn’t touch or even hear of. I dabble.

I’m something of a freak next to your typical gaming aficionado. I had a Nintendo and some games back in the 80s like most kids did, but after that I was out of the loop aside from the occasional emulator and pirated PC game until about 2005 when I jumped back in — hard.

I’m still playing catchup. My backlog is in the hundreds, many of which are defining classics that I’ve only experienced vicariously through podcasts and internet forums. I am an Unfrozen Caveman Gamer. Your lack of HUD elements frightens and confuses me! (No joke. I played the Mass Effect 2 demo and was disoriented by not knowing how many hit points I had left. How do I know if I need a med pack? What do you mean, there are none?)

I still haven’t played a whole lot of games from this current generation. A general lack of surplus money combined with Mt. Backlog staring down at me has me in no real hurry to jump on the 360/PS3 bandwagon. Not to say that the temptation isn’t there, but I make do with Steam sales to treat myself to something newer every now and then. Let’s just say it’s complicated. Still, you’d be surprised how much I know about the multitude of games that I haven’t actually played.

This site is a place where I’ll share my brief thoughts on the games that I’m playing and maybe some insights into the industry’s currents events, if I have any. Maybe I’m playing an old gem, maybe I’m playing an independent visual novel for the PC that came out this year. Regardless, I think I’ll have a unique perspective on things simply due to not being entirely familiar with all the mechanical improvements that we’ve moved on to. Maybe I can find something of value in a game that you would consider “unplayable” to today’s gamer.

I won’t promise highly professional writing. I can write well, but composing is a slow process for me, and there are games to be played, dammit! There may be times when I merely list out my stream of thoughts on what I played. We’ll see where it goes. The only reason I’m doing this is because I’d like to talk more about this stuff than Twitter or Facebook really allows, and to lend some permanence to my thoughts.

I only wish I had done this sooner.