The trouble with being a specialist is that you sometimes attract specialist problems. Harpal Rai has featured twice before in this column (with his name spelled incorrectly as Hartal, so from now on I'm going to refer to him as 'Paul', just the same as his customers do).

He runs an upmarket off licence in Birmingham and was recently contacted via email by "a very foreign-sounding chap" who asked him if he stocked certain Champagnes (the top four, in fact).

When Paul said he did the fellow asked him for a best price on 24 bottles. Brace yourself the bill would be six thousand pounds, said Paul.

This sheik (or whoever he is he is one of those people important enough to have 'people') said okay, here are my credit card details and I'll send someone over to collect the fizz. Paul says he had a bad feeling about the whole thing and he rang me to see if he would be covered if, five weeks down the line, say, somebody else reported that their credit card had been used fraudulently.

I checked with the UK Cards Association and was told that merely using the 'customer not present' facility and getting the address, long number on front and security code on the back would not be enough to cover Paul if the transaction was eventually rejected.

He and anyone else venturing into online transactions needs an additional verification process such as MasterCard SecureCode or Verified by Visa. Most cards are registered with these two schemes. That way you get virtually instant verification. Another thing that Paul could do is ask that the customer's 'people' bring a cheque with them, or a credit card with PIN.

I don't know the outcome of this story yet these big deals do take some time but I'll let you know what happens.