|by Jason Steele|
Hopefully, by now, we all know how this works. You call in response to a “free trial” of something on late night television. You opt in or fail to opt out to a free offer at the end of a transaction. Sometimes you have no idea what you did. Either way, the results are the same: you continue to see a charge on your credit card and you have no idea how it got there. Worse, contacting the offending company and getting them to stop charging you is nearly impossible.
These scams have been around almost since credit cards were invented. Unfortunately, the credit cards themselves have very little interest dealing with this problem. They make money off of interest and merchant fees no matter what.
Now comes word that Visa is kicking off over 100 merchants for flagrant violations of their rules.
What You Need To Know
The article I linked to is full of vague generalities that give you the impression that the problem is under control. Worse, the article is full of nonsense about dealing with the Better Business Bureau. By the time you are at that point, it is too late. You have to think of these scammers like spammers that charge you money. Complaining to the BBB is like telling a mugger that robbery is not nice.
1. Always scrutinize your credit card statements. If you are like me, you charge everything to your card in order to maximize reward points. The downside is that it is easy to receive a statement that is several pages long, filled mostly with smaller transactions.
2. If you notice something unusual, investigate. Don’t assume everything you don’t recognize is fraudulent. Sometimes a legitimate charge shows up with a merchant name that you don’t recognize, especially when you make purchases over the Internet. Google the merchant name and see if you remember the charge. If you are still coming up blank, try calling them and asking about your purchase. They should be able to tell you what you bought and when.
3. If the story doesn’t check out, make one attempt to get a refund. Don’t spend all day on hold, don’t put up with the run around, and don’t jump through hoops. If the company is not a scammer, they should pick up the phone in a reasonable amount of time, say less than 15 minutes. Then, they should quickly reverse the charge. Many scammers are “soft scammers” that are hoping your don’t call, and will quickly reverse the charge when you do to stay off of the credit card processor’s radar.
4. Contact your bank and ask for a chargeback. Unfortunately, not all scammers are “soft scammers”. Some are “hard scammers” and will make life difficult for anyone who tries to get a refund. Don’t play their game, just go straight to your trump card, a credit card charge back. The burden of proof is on the merchant to prove that you authorized the charge. Tell your credit company that you did not authorize the charge, and they should remove it from your bill quickly.
5. Make sure all charges are reversed It is likely that you may have been charged many times by the same “merchant”. Remember to ask you bank to tell you of any instances of this merchant charging your credit card. Any action you take should be against all charges the scammer issued.
Credit cards are a great tool, and Visa made a positive step by kicking off so many scammers. It is up to you to use your card responsibly, and be vigilant in the face of so many people out there who want to steal your money.