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.

Tagged fraud, games for windows, microsoft, xbox 360, xbox live

Comments

  1. Damion White says:

    Hi Greg,

    I read through your write up about your Xbox Live account being compromised, as the exact same thing has happened to me just a day ago. Someone managed to gain access to my Windows Live account and made $338 worth of purchases.
    (6000 microsoft points, 2x 12 month Xbox Live Family gold subscriptions. Why they decided to buy gold subscriptions for the account, I do not know. The points were transferred to another account)

    I immediately contacted my bank and canceled my credit card and explained my situation. I then proceeded to contact Microsoft about the issue and the account was “Locked Out” for further investigation. The ETA for an answer is 4 – 5 weeks.

    Reading your article has made me fearful that I’m not going to see my money for fairly long while, if at all. Do you have any advice on what I should do? I do in fact own an Xbox in my case, though I don’t know if that’s going to beneficial for me at all. Should I talk to the bank about issuing a charge back? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  2. greg says:

    I would say to stick with Microsoft. You’re probably fine in your case.

    If you go to your bank, their investigation lasts even longer: 90 days with mine. They’ll also tell you to take it up with them first.

    After I got involved with this publicly, I’ve been amazed at how often this exact situation occurs with Live. I’m constantly hearing from people who had this happen “just last week” or “just the other day”. Accounts breached and points purchased.

  3. Dave says:

    This started happening with me last night. I had an old original xbox from years ago but havent used the xbox live account in about 4 years then I saw the purchase confirmation emails pop up as I was watching TV. I called Microsoft immediately to let them know…same story as you…investigation is going to take weeks despite it happening within 45 mins of my call to them. I also called my bank and let them know as well and they also said it would take weeks to investigate. I am now worried that it will not get resolved in a timely fashion if at all.

  4. Dave says:

    Also…thanx for posting your problem. Makes me feel slightly better that it not just me and that it may get resolved (tho, honestly…I’m not holding my breathe).

  5. Zafrod says:

    This is still going on. My account was hacked in the same way as yours, at about the same time. Almost two months later, Microsoft has rejected the claim because I don’t own an Xbox, and their customer service is apparently either uninformed or instructed to play dumb. The claim has been reopened, but I’ve been informed that without an Xbox ID, my chances of being helped are slim. I have spoken to over ten different representatives, most have contradicted each other, and a supervisor yelled at me for wasting his time and told me that I could have my account unlocked if I was willing to forget about the $50 still outstanding. Microsoft is apparently only willing to be helpful if a customer is a potential PR problem. I am out $50, I have no access to the games I’ve purchased that require my Games for Windows Live account, and I’m going to miss the PC launches of War in the North and Barman Arkham City. Microsoft apparently couldn’t care less.

  6. Aaron says:

    I have had this same thing happen to me, got in touch with my bank and cancelled the card and changed all passwords. They told me to take it up with Microsoft to get the money back but i have no idea about the best way to take it up with them. I use my account purely for registering PC games so the fact that Microsoft points were bought and then used to buy an xbox live subscription should stand out as suspicious. Ive managed to hold onto my account and change the password so losing my games doesn’t seem to be an issue but got no idea what to do from here. Any help or advice you can give would be appreciated.

    • greg says:

      Getting caught in the middle of a blame-game between companies is never fun. All you can really do it keep persisting until one of them gives. If you go to the bank and tell them that you tried and failed with MS, they SHOULD take care of you.

      • Aaron says:

        Thanks for the rather swift reply Greg, i’m thinking about physically going into the bank. Over the phone they were very persistent in saying i should take it up with Microsoft. Microsoft have now got back to me via email so hopefully i can get this worked out, if not ill go back to the bank as you suggested. You’d think with this being fairly common that they would have a very clear way for the consumer to get in touch with them about this issue. Thanks again for getting back to me and for having this page up for anyone else who might need it.

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