Many of us have had credit cards stolen, or more accurately the number stolen most likely from a business with poor database security (hello Home Depot) or from an individual copying the numbers from the myriad of places you give your number to. Either the credit card company notices something strange and calls to ask if you are currently in Nigeria or you notice strange charges on your card and call them. The credit card company cancels the credit card, they have you report the theft to the police, refund your money, and issue you a new card. Never do you hear of the thief being caught.
On September 16, 2016, I caught the thief.
In this case, it wasn’t a credit card but an EZ-Charge card which looks like a credit card and which you swipe at electric car charging stations to activate them so you can charge your vehicle. My EZ-Charge card is tied to 3 or 4 different charging networks, each of which stores my credit card number so that when I swipe my EZ-Charge card at any charging station, the charging network then charges my Visa. Some of these require you to keep a balance, say $25, which they then deduct from until you run low and they charge your card again. I keep my card in my car, a Nissan Leaf, so that whoever is driving the car, Laura, Ben, or me, can use the card if needed.
On the morning of September 16th, I received a text message from the Blink electric charging network thanking me for plugging in. This was a bit strange since I was driving and wasn’t plugged in. A minute later I received another message stating I had been unplugged. Stranger still.
When I got to work, I logged onto the charging networks to see what was up and sure enough on one of them, Chargepoint, there were ten charges over the past few weeks that weren’t mine. I hadn’t received a text message because I hadn’t set up Chargepoint to text me when charging. I charge at home and my Leaf goes 120 miles between charges so I rarely stop to charge at charging stations. I also knew I hadn’t charged externally the past few weeks and yet my account showed many charges. I immediately cancelled the card, ran down to the car, and found that, sure enough, the charge card was missing. Crap. Either someone had taken it from my car or I had left it somewhere and someone decided to pick it up and start using it. Which is just like using someone else’s credit card. Not nice.
I logged on again and looked at the charges. Over $29 of charges on Chargepoint alone and I hadn’t checked other networks yet. The charges were mostly on Mercer Island at City Hall and the Community Center as well as a few at Bellevue Square Mall. It was then I noticed that I was shown as actively charging at Bellevue Square. Ha! I knew what I must do next… 🙂
I hopped in the car and dashed to Bellevue Square. The chargers are located on the first floor of the parking garage near Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel. While driving, I called Chargepoint and got the ID of the charging station; it was Charger #1 at Bellevue Square near Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel and had been actively charging for over an hour. In less than 10 minutes, I was there. Sure enough, only one car was charging and it was on Charger #1. It was a white Tesla with license plate “[redacted]”. I stopped the charge by unplugging the car, but not the Tesla adapter which was locked into the car’s charging port, and plugged it back in; this would alert the Tesla driver if they had the app installed and would stop me from getting charged. And then I called the cops.
Within a few minutes, I had Bellevue police as well as more than half a dozen security guards from the mall. I gave them the rundown but it’s a bit convoluted and difficult to understand. The officer called Chargepoint and spoke with a supervisor but only got some basic information. The officer asked some good questions such as “could this simply be a mistake where they entered the wrong numbers?”, which it couldn’t since the only way to activate the device was by swiping a card that has an ID just like a credit card and my card was missing. I was asked if I wanted to press charges and after thinking about it I said absolutely. I really just want my money back and the guy to get a slap on the wrist and the way to do that is to press charges; I must trust the justice system to have that reasonable outcome. After about 45 minutes of talking about it with me and Chargepoint, the owner of the car hadn’t come back so the officer left his business card on the window of the Tesla saying “Call me regarding your charging” and left.
So there are a couple of things to prove that this guy used my card:
- Was my card being used? The card ID used to start the charge was the card that I had registered almost 2 years ago when I purchased my Nissan Leaf. I have been actively using it during that time. I’m betting that a card can only be registered to one online account so the theory that another card had that same ID is tough to swallow since I would expect it to generate an error when the new user went to register it.
- Was I at the right charger? I verified that with Chargepoint that the charge attributed to that card was used at that specific station.
- Was the card actually used or the charge activated by some other method (calling in, an app, etc)? Need to verify with Chargepoint but the I believe the number being used is only used by EZ-Charge cards, while Chargepoint Cards and Phone Apps have very different and longer numbers.
- Was the car at the station the car that had been charging or had it left and a different car arrived at that spot? When I got there, it was actively charging. I need to verify that the car was still charging at the time I got there and called the police. The car was definitely charging as it was plugged into a wall and his adapter, something that each Tesla owner has in their car, was locked into his charging port meaning he was trying to charge. If he wasn’t charging, he was illegally parked.
- The real proof is to ask the owner of the car: How did you start charging? A card? Can we see the card? Then either the card is either:
- My EZ-Charge card in which case he’s a thief. My card would have my number and looks like it’s been around and used occasionally for 2 years; in decent shape but definitely not new.
- His own card. In which case we call Chargepoint and see if that card was used at Bellevue Square that day at that station. If it wasn’t, then his assertion that he used his card doesn’t fly.
- His card with the same number, which again had to come from a Nissan Leaf. If it’s a card from a Leaf, he needs to prove it’s not mine and explain how he got it and why he just started using it two weeks before I noticed mine was missing.
- Was the person at the locations where the card was used at previous charging? Need to ask the Mercer Island Community Center and City Hall if the owner checked in at those times.
That’s the start of this adventure. More to come when I hear back from Bellevue PD.
Chargepoint Transactions that weren’t mine:
|Total Fees: $29.66|
Also, the card was used on September 5th at 801 Rainier Ave S in Seattle for 33 minutes. This charge doesn’t show up because it was free; some charges are free with this card.
Looking at the charges, the last time I used the car was on August 24th in the Microsoft Building 17 parking lot (where I work).
BLINK Transaction Details
The BLINK Charging Network charge which generated the text message:
|Location:||The Bravern, 11111 NE 8th St, Bellevue, WA 98004 US|
|Session Duration:||1 minute 57 seconds|
|Session Billable Duration:||1 minute 57 seconds|
|Grace Period:||1 second|
|Initial Grace Period:||N/A|
|Energy Consumed:||0.09 kWh|
|Occupancy Rate:||$0.00/1 hour|
|Occupancy Rate Cap:||$0.00|
|Occupancy Grace Period:||0 seconds|
|Occupancy Elapsed Time:||0 seconds|
|Occupancy Billable Duration:||0 seconds|
|Charge Time:||2016-09-16 12:55:26 EDT|
|Billing Unit Type:||kWh Based|
These are high-income areas. So this thief is a rich guy who doesn’t think twice about blatantly using someone else’s money to charge his expensive luxury EV…. I tend to think they will wiggle out of this, claiming they didn’t know – and it must be a mistake. When you have money, you hire expensive laywers. Hopefully, justice will be served.