Viva big banks!

you probably thought that headline was sarcastic and this past saturday it would have been, especially as i was yelling at the bank representative on the phone, but nope, i am genuinely grateful.  i am really saying thank goodness for banks.  or, more accurately, thank goodness for the fraud division of banks.  sometimes the whole big brother thing can turn out to work in your favor.

for the second time in four years i had my credit card number stolen, probably online.  the culprit was in the middle of a shopping spree when the bank intervened.  the news is better this time than the first time because i wised up and quit using my debit card online.  okay, so all of my tech friends can stop laughing now… worldly advice: don’t use your debit card online.

the first time i got hit there was a phone call from the fraud division of the bank saying that they detected what they thought was unusual activity on my debit card.  i checked the bank account and sure enough, there were wacky charges on the debit card.  the mess began with a $1.00 charge at a local gas station to test the card.  once they knew the card worked, the shopping spree began.  first they charged $500 online at crocs, then $120 at american eagle outfitters online, $200 at pacsun online and $180 at zumiez online.

the fraud division of the bank had flagged those purchases but evidently that’s not enough to stop the bank from putting the charges through.  i had to contact another division of the bank and tell them that i was working with the fraud division and that no further charges should be put through on my debit card.  they shut down the card but put the charges through anyway.

that’s when the fun began.  here’s the big lesson of someone fraudulently using your debit card as opposed to your credit card.  if your credit card is hacked, the credit card company will take care of voiding the charges and tracking down the creeps.  since the creeps were able to get into my bank account by using my debit card, i had to settle the accounts myself. that is, i had to contact the individual retailer and work with their fraud division to get my money back.  the most my bank would do was give me an incident # that i could use to legitimize my claim with the retailer but the rest was up to me.  if you’re in this situation put on your best lawyer because it’s likely to get ugly.

i called crocks first since that charge was the biggest.  (can i just say that i am no fan of crocs and i would never spend so much as $1 on their ugly stuff, let alone $500)  customer service at crocs connected me directly to the fraud division where i spoke with a very wonderful person.  she looked up the charges and knew immediately that this was fraud since the shipping address on the order was different from the one associated with my card.  she asked me if i knew the name and address where the shipment was sent, which i did not, then gave me the name and address in south carolina.  i figured that meant they could go after probably the dumbest criminals on earth for giving out their address on a fraudulent purchase.  turns out they were likely innocent victims too.  either the shipment was snatched up as soon as it was delivered and they never knew their address was used, or they were caught up on an email scam where they receive a shipment and in turn pay to have it shipped to a third world country for the “poor kids of fill in the blank.” crocs refunded the money.

next, i called pacsun and that went pretty much the same as crocs.  the money was refunded.

next, i called zumiez, who i had never even heard of.  same kind of conversation with the fraud division and the money was refunded.

finally, i called american eagle outfitters and here’s where it got really ugly.  first, the teenager on the phone said that they wouldn’t refund because i had made online purchases from them before and just because my daughter didn’t like the stuff this time, didn’t mean it was fraud.  no lie, that was said.  i asked to speak to a supervisor.  nope, no supervisor.  i pressed the snotty teenager again about refunding the money, setting aside her stupid remark.  she answered by saying that my daughter probably stole my card and bought the stuff so i should talk to her.  no kidding.  you can image what ensued next.  finally, i got said teenager to tell me the exact procedure for reporting a fraud, which she said had to be submitted in writing with a police report.  i called the haverford police to file a report and they don’t want to do it because it’s online fraud.  long story short, i got the police report only because of the fraudulent $1.00 charge at the local hess station and they listed all the other fraudulent charges on the report.  i faxed a letter outlining the fraud, the police report, the bank incident # and everything else i could think of to the snotty teenager at american eagle outfitters requesting that they issue a refund.  nothing.  called back a week later and had to be put through the same procedure with yet another snotty teenager before i got a supervisor who gave me her direct fax number.  i refaxed the paperwork.  nothing.  i called back again, asking directly for the supervisor i spoke to previously.  she said they wouldn’t accept the claim because the police report didn’t look like a police report they had seen before.  imagine what ensued next. she said she would speak to another supervisor and call me back.  no call back.  i called her back a couple days later and she didn’t work there anymore.  i wrangled another person on the phone and had to start the story all over again.  there are at least three more steps to this story, but it ends by me never getting my money back from american eagle outfitters.  don’t shop at american eagle outfitters.  i will carry that grudge against them for the rest of my life and i will spread the word.  i believe that the incompetence in the fraud area is a deliberate and calculated to keep your money.  don’t shop at american eagle outfitters.

that was a few years ago.

this past thursday, i opened my email and found an email from bank of america regarding irregular activity on my credit card.  my first assumption was the email might have been a fraud so before i called the number on the email i logged onto the credit card site and clicked through on the alert.  i was asked a series of rather obscure questions to verify my access to the account that anyone who had stolen the login would have been unable to answer.  that was comforting.  when i finally got in, i got the message to call the fraud division, so i called that number instead of the number on the email, just in case.

by the way, this is all more complicated because c and i have joint accounts and i always have to remember whether his information was used as the security, or mine.

here’s where i rave about the efficiency and courtesy of the fraud division of bank of america credit card.  the card was shut down, the charges were never put on the card and a new card will be arriving shortly. i am not liable for any of the fraudulent charges nor am i required to do battle with any of the retailers where my card was fraudulently used.

please do not be like me and learn this lesson the hard way.  do not use your debit card online.  use only a credit card and check your accounts for fraudulent activity.  consider opening a single credit card that is only used for online purchases so that if you have to shut it down there are no automatic charges tied to it that have to be detangled (as in the case of my recent card).  inspect atm machines and other swiping devices where you use a card and make sure they look legitimate.  Tech friends, please comment with any additional advice.

happy shopping!


1 Comment

Filed under credit card fraud

One response to “Viva big banks!

  1. Mike S

    I actually asked my bank for an ATM card — it’s not a debit card. We use credit cards for just about everything — b/c of the safety, and b/c of the 1% cash back!

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