October 21, 2014

Beware debit card scams that update your account

Rhonda Humble
Publisher
There’s a new scam in town.
If you use a bank debit card, watch your account for unauthorized charges, and be prepared to jump through hoops to reverse the charges. It may take up to 120 days, a few certified letters and some blood pressure pills.
An “automatic account number updating” program banks can join allows vendors from years ago a gateway to your new account number.
My bank account was hit for $450 by a software vendor I’ve previously done business with.
I did not authorize the transaction, but the “updating program,” approved by the bank, did.
What’s bad is that while I didn’t yet know my new bankcard number, this vendor-from-my-past retrieved it, without my permission.
I’ve been in business over 20 years. I’ve purchased many items using debit/credit cards and electronic checks, and I’m always careful to mark the “do not save credit information for future use” box.
I always felt relatively safe that at the end of a year, a new card is issued, and the debit/credit card number must be manually updated before additional charges can be withdrawn.
That’s why when I received this year’s new bank card, I left it in the envelope, knowing the old one didn’t expire until the end of April.
About the same time, I started receiving email from a previous software vendor asking me to renew a service I no longer need. I did not respond to their email; I opted not to renew the service.
So I was surprised when I found the $450 charge to my account.
I called the bank and was told because both the bank and the software vendor were enrolled in an “updating” program, the vendor had automatically been provided with my new bankcard number, even without my authorization.
I immediately went to the bank, took the new bankcard – still in the envelope – and filled out fraud papers to dispute the charge. The new bankcard was shredded.
I also called the software company, spoke to several people in a foreign country who basically read from a script – in broken English – and told me that I was out of luck.
And so, confident my local bank would reverse the charges, I waited.
And I called. . . . . And I waited.
And I received a letter saying it could take 120 days.
So I called, and the most frustrating thing was that I had to argue to get back my money.
In a condescending voice, the bank’s  bankcard manager told me because I had previously done business with the software vendor, and because both companies were enrolled in the updating program, I had authorized the payment.
Following through with the logic of this argument, this updating program – which the bank arbitrarily enrolled me in – would allow any vendor I have EVER done business with to debit my account.
What?
Further I was told he had called the software company and been told that I had been a previous customer. DUH.
He said that proved the transaction was authorized. Huh? What kind of logic is this?
From my point of view it’s fraud, I said. Had someone written a check on my account I would be prosecuting; using a bank card without my authorization is theft; I don’t care what type of program the bank is enrolled in.
After some heated discussion, finally, he said, as a courtesy he would return my money pending the “investigation.”
I’m still incredulous.
He condescends it is a courtesy to return my money from a vendor the bank supplied my new account number to?
So much for local banks that are run by huge holding companies; I don’t think they work for the customer any longer.
It reminds me of the scams of yesteryear when America Online would arbitrarily start charging your account for “minute” charges that weren’t disclosed, or offshore long distance carriers would “pic” your phone bill and start charging outrageous prices for phone calls.
Eventually, consumers caught on to those scams, and I believe they will to this new scam as well.
Until then, watch your debit cards closely for unauthorized charges.

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