From the Annals of International Pizza and Possibly Salad Bar Fraud
October 3, 2011 7:01 AM   Subscribe

My bank has denied a credit card transaction dispute. Should I send a letter to the state attorney general, or is there a step to take before I do that?

A series of five charges made at a Pizza Hut in Guatemala appeared on my bank statement. I am in Ohio, have never been to Guatemala, and the name on the card is not my name, or anything like my name. The card number, however, is the same. Apparently somebody altered a card, tested its functionality with the first transaction, and tested the account with the later ones. (The first charge was for $ .01, while the rest were for amounts around $50.) I noticed the charges and cancelled the card, then wrote a letter of dispute.

To my way of thinking, the scenario could scarcely look more like fraud. It's almost comically fraudulent, really. The bank, however, denied the dispute. (And is charging conversion fees for an international transaction. Ha-ha.) Because the person whose name is on the card signed receipts, the bank chooses to perceive these as valid.

The letter from the bank states that this determination is final. But that is ridiculous. Should I begin again with the bank, writing directly to a person in authority? Or should I make a complaint to the state attorney general's office, without bothering with the bank again? Please let me know the best way to go about fixing this problem.
posted by Francolin to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This seems so completely, over-the-top, clearly a case of fraud that yes, I'd start at the bank. But I'd also go straight to These are the kinds of stories they'd love to publish.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:16 AM on October 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

Make a stink, this'll get taken care of it. I used to work in fraud protection for an online seller. This is classic fraud.
posted by pwb503 at 7:30 AM on October 3, 2011

It's possible this has been harder than it should be is because you cancelled the card and then wrote a letter of dispute. The very first thing you should have done is called the fraud department of the CC issuer. They would have probably taken the report and mailed you a document to affirm what you said. They almost surely would have immediately issued you a new CC # and cards over the phone while they investigated it.

I think the fact that you canceled it and then "disputed it" (unless by dispute you mean disputed as a fraudulent transaction) confused their flowchart brains. So, I'd say keep at it and maybe try calling their fraud department directly if you can find how to.
posted by skynxnex at 7:34 AM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Escalate at the bank. The letter you got is not the be-all, end-all of the bank's customer service department. Try to speak to a manager or supervisor in the customer service department. If they are unhelpful, escalate again. If nobody up the chain is willing to help, bring down a consumerist shit storm on their heads. Try to get on the local media "watchdog" program. That should get them hopping, right quick.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:51 AM on October 3, 2011


Gather all the paperwork and scan it. Then call the credit card company (not the bank) and ask for Customer Relations (not the complaint department or the dispute resolution department).

Be EXTREMELY polite, explain what happened without nasty comments and offer to email the paperwork to them. Make the rep feel good. At the end of the call, say "Thank you. You've been very helpful."

If that fails (and it probably won't), send a letter to the company CEO's office. The web site will give you that information. If not, try Then go to the SEC site and access the most recent 10-K report, which will list the company executives.

When you get no help from a Consumer Service Representative and want to escalate, get the Issue Number.
posted by KRS at 7:51 AM on October 3, 2011

Someone once spoofed my debit card (I assume*) and emptied thousands of dollars out my savings and checking accounts at an ATM in New York. I called the fraud department as soon as I discovered this, and reported the fraudulent transactions (some of which were showing up in the account as I was on the phone with them!). A couple of days later I got a letter from the bank saying that, since my PIN was used during the transactions, they were deemed authorized and therefore not fraudulent. I flipped out (understandably) and called the bank again, and I don't remember quite what happened but within a few days I had my money back. It either needed a second look by a higher-up or needed me to raise a stink, but either way it really wasn't difficult to reverse their decision, especially given the "finality" of the original decision letter. I wouldn't start worrying about going on the local news just yet.

Don't just write letters -- you need to actually talk to people and start some sort of ongoing interaction between you and bank. Fraud department is definitely the place to contact; there's probably a number for them on your credit card (or just call the customer service department and say you want to talk to the fraud department.)
posted by enlarged to show texture at 7:58 AM on October 3, 2011

*I was going to include a more detailed description of my fraud experience but decided it was irrelevant. And then forgot to remove the asterisk. Whoops.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 7:59 AM on October 3, 2011

Before taking things to the next level, I would call the credit card company directly. Whenever I have disputed transactions, I called the card company and had it resolved without ever speaking with my bank. Wouldn't the charges show up on your credit card statement before making an appearance on your bank statement? If you paid your bill before noticing the fraud, your credit card company can still likely refund you the charges/payment. My guess is that they will be easier to deal with than your bank, since they deal with this sort of things every single day (and in my experience, the credit card companies have reversed the charges with almost no questions asked). If that fails, then I would move on to talking to the AG's office and the other suggestions posted here.
posted by Nightman at 8:27 AM on October 3, 2011

Contact the dispute resolution department of the sponsoring credit card company directly.
posted by JXBeach at 11:56 AM on October 3, 2011

If it is a credit card communicate with the appropriate dispute resolution department with the noted credit card.
posted by JXBeach at 11:56 AM on October 3, 2011

Involving the attorney general's office is a fine idea, though I'd give the bank another opportunity to correct their obvious error.
posted by theora55 at 3:02 PM on October 3, 2011

It can help while you escalate to say that you did not participate in the transactions, you did not authorize them, and no cardholder on your account participated or authorized.

I think they might be looking at this as a chargeback (of a transaction you authorized) rather than fraud.

Good luck!
posted by dave99 at 3:02 PM on October 3, 2011

Last time I had a big problem with a bank (missing deposit) that was not getting resolved, I went in with a suit on, and requested to speak with the manager, who I then very politely told, "if this is not fixed by x date, I will be forced to report this to the state attorney general." That was remarkably effective. (Also, from then on, I got awesome service at the bank branch because they had flagged my account to get a higher level of service as an apology. They had really messed up, I was always polite but firm and persistent, and the combination really paid off for me.)
posted by min at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks very much to everyone for your advice. I was reluctant to call the bank because I really thought this determination was, as the letter said, final. I dreaded the conversation and how apologetically unbending the customer service person would be. But, encouraged by your answers, I did call, and it turns out there's another step in the process. This one involves writing a rebuttal to their denial of my dispute. It reminds me of Bleak House, but not as sad, and I think it's just the way they do things. If nothing comes of this, I will do as KRS and Nightman suggest, and call the credit card company directly. But I think this will work. I have high hopes.

Thanks again.
posted by Francolin at 6:51 PM on October 6, 2011

Response by poster: Here is the mostly happy ending: the bank removed the charges, but haven't taken away the fees for currency conversion. These fees are tiny little sums of money. I'll write another politely worded letter asking the bank to remove them! And maybe they will! While it now seems obvious to me that writing to the attorney general would have been not all that useful, and overkill, the bank's insistence that their decision was final in such a clear case of theft confused me. Your advice was very helpful.
posted by Francolin at 5:16 PM on November 7, 2011

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