Fraudulent visa/debit card charges - let it go?
March 18, 2013 1:48 PM   Subscribe

It took a while for us to notice the pattern so when we reported fraudulent use of our Visa/debit card the credit union told us it is too late to dispute the charges. We asked if we should file a police report and they said we can do whatever we want. They were reluctant to give us the forms to file a dispute since it is past the allowed time but my husband wants it on record. Should we just do what they recommend and get over it?

This happened during a time when we were changing jobs and maintaining two households. We were renting moving trucks and cars and the charges, made at gas stations, didn't look immediately out of the ordinary, until we sat down to do our taxes. It has been 4 1/2 months.
posted by krikany to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How much money are we talking about? That could affect the answers you get.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Were you able to get the charges reversed?
posted by radioamy at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2013

According to the FTC, since it has been more than 60 days since the statement was sent to you, you are legally liable for the full amount that was fraudulently charged. So I would guess that it's very unlikely that you're going to be able to get the money back, unfortunately.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2013

It was over $1000 over two months. No charges will be reversed. We understand that. We're just curious if we should report it anywhere else. The credit union rep was very uninterested and told us to forget it.
posted by krikany at 2:22 PM on March 18, 2013

You shouldn't "get over it", you should switch to a credit card. Fraud on a debit card can cost you a lot more than fraud on a credit card. With a credit card, your liability is bounded to $50 (usually waived to $0) regardless of how long it takes you to report the fraud. In addition, fraudulent charges can't empty your bank account (even temporarily), which means payments like your mortgage or car payment won't bounce.

I think a police report is very appropriate, and will at least make you feel better. You could consider suing the stations that had fraudulent charges, since it would be worth at least my time to get over $1000 back.
posted by saeculorum at 2:27 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would report it.

I found out some guy in Ohio was buying dick enhancement pills on my Visa. I had his name, address, email, etc and while I got my charges reversed, Visa couldn't care less about prosecuting.

I had to go to the police station and fill out a complaint. I still have it. It's been about 5 years now.

Identity theft is weird like that. It doesn't hurt to make a police report.

Also call all three bureaus once you have that number and make them note your account.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:27 PM on March 18, 2013

Hi! I'm one of the people who processes credit/debit card disputes for your credit union (probably not specifically YOUR credit union, but I handle work for about 30 different ones across the country). Your CU rep is right about the fact that you're not going to get any money back -- Visa puts a time limit on how long we can file chargeback claims, and the limit for filing chargebacks on a fraudulent transaction is 120 days from the date of transaction. So unfortunately you're out of luck on these particular charges, but I encourage you to keep a very watchful eye on your accounts moving forward, so that you can report any further charges to your CU within a few days of the transaction. That way you'll stand a much greater chance of getting your money back.

(There's also a rather weird issue with charges at gas stations in particular -- if the merchant code is 5542, for a transaction initiated at an automated fuel pump, your credit union only has the right to file a chargeback claim with the merchant if the card is indicated as lost or stolen. If you still have your card, even if someone made a counterfeit card with your account info, you're out of luck. It's a weird thing with Visa regulations that totally sucks and is a huge pain in my ass on a daily basis.)

One thing I would absolutely recommend doing is contacting your credit union and asking if they filed any fraud notifications with Visa on your behalf. Fraud notifications can be filed at any time, there is no time limit on that, and technically if a financial institution is aware that a fraudulent transaction has occurred they're required to notify Visa that that merchant has accepted payment through fraudulent means. This is a notification that has to come through the financial institution, not the consumer, so please contact your credit union and ask if they've notified Visa about the fraud. (If Visa sees enough fraud notifications against a particular merchant, that merchant will see consequences, so it's not a wholly empty gesture.)
posted by palomar at 3:20 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

So, Palomar, some of the transactions are within the 120 days. Should we try to do anything about those?
I don't think the charges were at the pump - we thought maybe they were buying phone cards.
Thank you so much for the advice to have the credit union file a fraud notification.
posted by krikany at 3:28 PM on March 18, 2013

You may be able to declare the stolen money as a loss on your income taxes. In that case it might be nice to have the police reports as documentation.
posted by bq at 4:19 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, in some cases and in some states, a police report of identity theft or financial fraud may offer you additional benefits, such as the ability to place a freeze on your credit report for free.
posted by jgreco at 4:43 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm another fraud person. I've popped in to agree with palomar and burnmp3s, and to also provide a little more information.

Credit/debit card fraud is very different than ID theft. Stealing an access device (ATM/debit/credit card/check) is not ID theft. ID theft is the use of your personal identifying information (SSN, address, etc) to deliberately impersonate you and open lines of credit or utilities, to call in to your bank and perform demographic information changes... things like that. Card numbers are stolen or compromised by the thousands each day. The vast majority of the time, the fraudsters aren't after you, personally, they're after your access device.

If you want to place a fraud alert with the bureaus, you can absolutely do so if that makes you feel better. For debit card or credit card fraud, I generally don't recommend it because it's truly a waste of time unless you have some strong suspicions that your SSN was compromised as well.

Lastly, please, please review your statements carefully. If you're not getting your statements, call your financial institution immediately to make sure someone hasn't changed your address on you. Check your accounts online. Question any and all charges that are unfamiliar. All the financial institutions I've worked at can identify in your account activity history where, when, and what type of merchant it was. Never wait.

As far as recovering your money goes, you can file a police report, but I wouldn't expect much. Good luck.
posted by Verdandi at 6:01 PM on March 18, 2013

If you have a record of the establishment where the charge was made I would try contacting them directly. It is possible they will credit your account if they believe they have fraudulently charged your card. It's a long shot, but it might be another way to recoup some of the lost money.

Indicating that you are also collecting their information (address and phone #) for inclusion in the police report also might help...
posted by NoDef at 6:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

krikany, it depends on how old the transactions are -- while the full time limit to file a chargeback on fraud is 120 days, there has to be time for your credit union to contact the merchant and request copies of any signed receipts. Once contacted the merchant has up to 30 days to respond with receipt copies, so if any of the transactions you have are 90 days old or less, I'd say go for it. (I've filed chargebacks on transactions older than 90 days, but it's very rare to get any money back on those.)

It never hurts to check back with your credit union, though. Contact them again, and if you get the same rep you talked with last time, ask to move up the chain to their manager. The odds are high that it really is too late to get any of the money back for those charges (Visa regulations SUCK and are slanted in favor of the merchant in almost all cases), but definitely push to have fraud notifications sent to Visa if they haven't already done so.

If I can answer any other questions feel free to MeMail me.
posted by palomar at 6:05 PM on March 18, 2013

One more thing - I don't know if it matters - the bank told us the charges were on a card ending in 4. My card ends in 2 and my husband's ends in 3. There is no one else on the account so it sounds like a third card was issued. Verdandi and Palomar, is this anything more of concern? Can someone make themselves a new card with a brand new number?
posted by krikany at 6:05 PM on March 18, 2013

You're already getting good advice, but I handle a merchant account and deal with chargebacks, etc., so:

- I'm not sure I'm reading anything here that says the account's (the debit cards, not the checking account per se) been closed and reissued with new CC numbers. This needs to happen yesterday if you're sure the cards were fraudulently used.

About the card number ending in 4 - is the CU not giving you the last 4-5 digits of the card used? To address your question - no, a bad guy can't "infer" a valid card number based on your existing ones, because they're supposed to be issued with some degree of randomness, and a valid card number has to meet a validity check (it's complicated, but not all numbers work, and the card numbers do not roll off a press sequentially). I seem to remember some old-timey gasoline cards or department store cards that had embossed numbers sequential to the account, i.e. the account number was the same on all cards then a sequential number was added for reference, but that strikes me as old school and is NOT the way Visa/Mastercard work. Bottom line, to trace this matter down you need the last 4-5 numbers of the card used in the transaction to compare against your cards.

- as has been pointed out, debit cards carry significantly less consumer protection than credit cards. For this reason I use a CC, not a debit card, in any higher risk situation. This is just free advice at this point; doesn't directly pertain here, except to agree that you have a higher standard to meet since these funds come right out of checking and you're expected to be balancing your checking statement. I make slightly-better-than-average money and I gotta tell you - a thousand bucks out of my checking account would have gotten noticed really quick in my world. :-) So it's not wrong per se to pursue the matter with police reports and the like, but you should not hold out a lot of hope unless the company where the card was used is feeling really generous. The police are not going to investigate; nothing will happen. If someone came to me with a transaction done at my store in this way, I like to think I'd be fair, but remember that fraud gets done both ways, so don't be surprised if they just say no.

- I'm going to point out something that I don't think has been said before in this thread, and it's happened to me more than once in my business. Are you positive you didn't make the charge? I know it sounds a little crazy, but the merchant name on the statement doesn't always match the business you thought you were buying from, for innocent reasons. You could rent a U-Haul and the parking lot you were standing in said U-Haul all over it and yet the Merchant Bank account could look like this on your statement:


where Luahu is the local franchise holder for the U-Haul place. And you said you were moving and going through a crazy time. That could even account for why you didn't notice the money missing - it could have been in your budget and accepted at the time, but you've forgotten it until time to work on taxes.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2013

Thank you randomkeystrike,
Yes, the cards were shut down.
The c.u. did give us the last four and the numbers are sequential: my husband's card's last four are exactly one digit off of mine and the card number used to make the purchases is exactly one number greater than the numbers of our cards.
We did actually notice a lot of money was being spent and there were things we did follow up on. For instance we had to rent trucks and cars and we were charged deposits that were eventually credited back. So yes, a shocking amount of money was leaving the account which made us want to get the move over with faster. We had been given a gift by a family member to help with expenses so we didn't bounce any checks. We're not high rollers. It was the perfect time to sneak in the charges because we had unusual deposits - payouts for unused vacation, closeout of flexible spending, etc. that made the balance look mostly okay. Also we were living in two cities at the time and we weren't talking about who bought what everyday - big mistake. It was chaotic but we know we have no excuse.
We're positive we did not make the charges. The c.u. helped us name and locate the addresses of the vendors. It wasn't until I was making a spread sheet for taxes that the pattern became clear. We think they stopped because they branched out from gas stations to flowers and that charge is what probably ended the scam. The credit union saw that and let us know.
posted by krikany at 8:18 PM on March 18, 2013

Palomar, I contacted the bank about the things you discussed and they're crediting the items that are within the chargeback of 120 days. So thank you! A little information goes a long way.
posted by krikany at 8:55 AM on March 19, 2013

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