Not surprisingly, Valorie and I both do some of our holiday season shopping at ThinkGeek. But no longer. Valorie recently placed a substantial order with them, but Instead of processing her order, they sent the following email:
From: ThinkGeek Customer Service [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 4:28 AM
To: <Valorie’s Email Address>
Subject: URGENT – Information Needed to Complete Your ThinkGeek Order
Thank you for your recent order with ThinkGeek, <order number>. We would like to process your order as soon as possible, but we need some additional information in order to complete your order.
To complete your order, we must do a manual billing address verification check.
If you paid for your order via Paypal, please send us a phone bill or other utility bill showing the same billing address that was entered on your order.
If you paid for your order via credit card, please send us one of the following:
– A phone bill or other utility bill showing the same billing address that was entered on your order
– A credit card statement with your billing address and last four digits of your credit card displayed
– A copy of your credit card with last four digits displayed AND a copy of a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport.
To send these via e-mail (a scan or legible digital photo) please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax (703-839-8611) at your earliest convenience. If you send your documentation as digital images via email, please make sure they total less than 500kb in size or we may not receive your email. We ask that you send this verification within the next two weeks, or your order may be canceled. Also, we are unable to accept billing address verification from customers over the phone. We must receive the requested documentation before your order can be processed and shipped out.
For the security-minded among you, we are able to accept PGP-encrypted emails. It is not mandatory to encrypt your response, so if you have no idea what we’re talking about, don’t sweat it. Further information, including our public key and fingerprint, can be found at the following
At ThinkGeek we take your security and privacy very seriously. We hope you understand that when we have to take extra security measures such as this, we do it to protect you as well as ThinkGeek.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and we appreciate your understanding. If you have any questions, please feel free to email or call us at the number below.
ThinkGeek Customer Service
Wow. We’ve ordered from them in the past (and placed other large orders with them), but we’ve never seen anything as outrageous as this. They’re asking for exactly the kind information that would be necessary to perpetuate an identity theft of Valorie’s identity, and they’re holding our order hostage if we don’t comply.
What was worse is that their order form didn’t even ask for the CVE code on the back of the credit card (the one that’s not imprinted). So not only didn’t they follow the “standard” practices that most e-commerce sites follow when dealing with credit cards, but they felt it was necessary for us to provide exactly the kind of information that an identity thief would ask for.
Valorie contacted them to let them know how she felt about it, and their response was:
Thank you for your recent ThinkGeek order. Sometimes, when an order is placed with a discrepancy between the billing and the shipping addresses, or with a billing address outside the US, or the order is above a certain value, our ordering system will flag the transaction. In these circumstances, we request physical documentation of the billing address on the order in question, to make sure that the order has been placed by the account holder. At ThinkGeek we take your security and privacy very seriously. We hope you understand that when we have to take extra security measures such as this, we do it to protect you as well as ThinkGeek.
Unfortunately, without this documentation, we are unable to complete the processing of your order. If we do not receive the requested documentation within two weeks of your initial order date, your order will automatically be cancelled. If you can’t provide documentation of the billing address on your order, you will need to cancel your current order and reorder using the proper billing address for your credit card. Once we receive and process your documentation, you should not need to provide it on subsequent orders. Please let us know if you have any further questions.
The good news is that we have absolutely no problems with them canceling the order, and we’re never going to do business with them again. There are plenty of other retailers out there that sell the same stuff that ThinkGeek does who are willing to accept our business without being offensive about it.
Edit to add: Think Geek responded to our issues, their latest response can be found here.