This’ll be a long one. All of it below the fold.
Kathryn, the reader who discovered that the Obama campaign accepts fraudulent donations also emailed me (unfortunately, while New Hampshire’s Third World Internet service was down again). I was interested in the subject because I also have an online credit-card operation over at my website (obviously a little smaller than Senator Obama’s), and so I looked into what our CC processing requires. In order to accept financial donations from “John Galt” and “Saddam Hussein”, whoever runs the Obama website would have to modify the default security checks required by their merchant processor.
Now sometimes you do have to do a bit of modifying. My website has a lot of customers from overseas, and the default security settings can sometimes be a bit too eager to reject credit cards from countries where the “state or province” box is non-applicable or the postal code is in a non-American format. In other words, the default settings on a US online processing operation (with their bias toward US address formats) should be just what a legitimate US political campaign (anxious not to accept illegal foreign donations) is looking for. Instead, the Obama site appear to have intentionally disabled not only all the address checks (thereby facilitating overseas contributions) but the most basic criterion of all: the card name match (thereby enabling entirely fake contributions).
As the Powerline reader has noted, if “John Galt” of “Ayn Rand Lane” attempts a contribution at the McCain campaign, it gets rejected. Which is just as well. If the Republican candidate’s website were intentionally set up to facilitate fraudulent donations, it would be on the front page of The New York Times. But, as it’s King Barack the Spreader, we can rest assured the crack investigative units will be too preoccupied with Governor Palin’s shoes over the next two weeks.
More details. Clearly fake donations? No problem; why not give more?
Further to my post below about the Obama campaign intentionally disabling security checks for their credit card donations, several readers have wandered over to the site to test it out. One was accepted with the following details:
Name: JarackBoe BOamabiden
Address: 2345 Fak Addrss Lane
The only query he got back was to ask him if he didn’t want to give more money.
By the way, don’t all stampede over to Barack’s place to test out whether he accepts ten bucks from Kim Jong-Il and fifteen from Queen Marie of Roumania. Or, if you do, keep the donations low. It occurs to me this might be just another wheeze to sucker conservatives into ponying up his expenses for these last 12 days. If he pulls this off, we’ll be doing enough of that after January.
You’d think a diligent New York Times reporter might want to check out this thing. After all, most of them have already been over there to make their own donations, so it’s not like they don’t know the URL.
Musings on the potential reasons for Obama to do this:
So let’s lay out a hypothetical situation. You’re in a business that takes payments. You expect some level of outright credit card fraud. Those transactions will be charged back, and you will owe fees on them, unless you use AVS [Address Verification Service] to prevent them. You also have a substantial number of customers who for whatever reason wish to remain anonymous. Your anonymous customers won’t do business with you if you use AVS, but you’re confident that this set of customers will not dispute their charges. The calculus is simple. If the revenues you expect from anonymous customers exceeds the fees you expect to pay from cardholder disputes leading to chargebacks, then the smart business decision is to turn off AVS.
Now if it’s against the law for customers to do business with you anonymously, then facilitating anonymous transactions goes beyond just being a business decision. But if the consequences of looking the other way are no more than having to refund the money several months down the road, then maybe you’re happy to take the money as an interest free loan in the meantime.
Anti-Fraud funcsions still disabled:
Apparently, the AVS security precautions have not been re-enabled at the Obama website, and fake-name donations are still being accepted. But please, stop giving the guys more cash.
As to the argument that all these fake names are checked “offline”, the donation below from “Della Ware” has already been withdrawn from her account.
So, just to clarify, the AVS security checks most merchant processors use to screen out fraudulent transactions (and, incidentally, overseas customers) were intentionally disabled by the Obama campaign – and thus their web donation page enables fraudulent (and/or foreign) donations. The McCain campaign retains the AVS system used by other online retailers and thus rejects fake names and fake addresses. Advantage: Obama!
McCain has more integrity, however:
So I went to the Obama website this afternoon and clicked on the “Donate” button.
I used my real MasterCard number (but was not asked for the 3 digit security code).
Used the following information and it was accepted…
First name: Fake
Last Name: Donor
Address: 1 Dollar To Prove A Point
Zip / Post: 33333
Email Address: email@example.com
Phone Number: 2125551212
Employer: Mainstream Media
Occupation: Being in the Tank
And incredibly, my $5 donation was ACCEPTED!!!
I then went to the McCain site and used the exact same information (and WAS asked for the 3 digit security code for my MasterCard). There, my contribution was rejected with the following message: “Your transaction was not approved for the following reason(s): Invalid data”, and then: “We have found errors in the information that you have submitted. Please review the information below and try again.”
I have screen shots and printouts of all of this as well.
Please tell me what I can do with this information? Is this a violation of FEC law by the Obama Campaign? How do we publicize this???
Finally (hopefully there isn’t more fraud, but I won’t hold my breath), here’s a suggestion of how to handle it:
If the donations list is published we could always do a bunch of donations as William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright etc. and then publicize that Obama’s taking donations from these indidividuals.
The only way to avoid the connection is to admit that they allow anonymous donation which, if I understand correctly, is a violation of federal law.
I’d think an amusing ad could be put together from the already published donor list. The tag line is that if Obama would let his contributors lie to give him money who else is lying to him? That plays off the trust, experience and judgement angles all at the same time.
Unfortunatley, I’ll predict that the national press doesn’t really consider this a story interesting enough to follow up on. If it were Republicans doing it? Stop the presses, above the fold, 24-hour scandal coverage. You know it’s true.