There are few stories as upsetting as what happened to Susan from Texas, who started off 2012 with several hundred dollars--$366.06, to be exact--stolen from her via her Xbox Live account.
She's recounted the situation on her Tumblr the last few days.
Her struggles to make things right have gained the rightful ire of the Internet, and reflect the worst parts of the stories I’ve filed here at Giant Bomb (here, here, here) about the exploitation of Xbox Live users.
“I think it’s fair to say that many people would look at Microsoft as a reliable company and absolutely trust them with their bank details,” she wrote. “What makes them any different than Blizzard or Sony? If this level of trust makes me a fool, than so be it, brand me as one. Just know that you are branding a hell of a lot of people with that marker than you probably know and we are not the ones to blame here.”
Susan had linked her Xbox Live to her bank via PayPal, and not a credit card. Traditionally, credit cards have greater protection for consumers in cases like this.
It’s unclear how someone came to access Susan’s account, as she claims to not be the victim of a traditional phishing scheme (which hinges upon tricking users into visiting familiar looking websites), but what happened after is familiar territory. The individual now in control of her account bought a “Family Gold Pack,” purchased an enormous number of Microsoft Points, transferred said points to new, unknown accounts, and sold these accounts elsewhere.
I’ve mentioned the selling of Xbox Live accounts in previous stories, but I’ll admit to not being aware of how common the practice might actually be, and I’m actively looking into the merits right now. Please contact me with your stories.
The reason Susan’s tale is more heartbreaking than most relates to her frustrating interactions with Microsoft customer service, which consistently gave her the runaround, pointing her in other directions, and putting the onus on her to ensure account was taken care of. I’ve heard this from countless other users.
Amazingly, Susan was even able to message the person who eventually purchased--and used--her account!
Microsoft director of policy and enforcement of Xbox Live, Stephen Toulouse, told me over email that his team became aware of Susan’s ordeal last night, and promptly locked her account and a refund should be en route.
I’ve been unable to verify personally with Susan whether the refund has been applied, but in her more recent update, she confirmed the account had been locked.
Toulouse said his team is aware of reselling sites.
“Both the buyer and the seller of accounts run the risk of a console ban from Xbox Live,” he added.