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RV Consumer Support: Your credit card statements could hurt you!

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
If you’re like us, you don’t mind spending money when and where it’s needed. But you no doubt bristle when you find your cash is going somewhere you didn’t authorize. Last night we found out we were bleeding money—and didn’t even know it. The only way we found out is by carefully eyeballing our credit card statements. There’s more than just one important principle here.

Started innocently enough

It all started innocently enough. We needed to track down a professional acquaintance that we’d lost track of. After knocking around the internet for an hour or more, we came up with a bunch of dead ends. We finally decided to “bite the bullet” and pay for one of those, “people search websites that aggregates data from online and offline sources.” The charge to us would be 97 cents. Fair enough. We plunked down our credit card information and, sure enough, found the man we’d been looking for. That was back in November.

Last night we were doing our monthly bill-paying duty. We set aside money each month for anticipated expenses, and by using our credit card statements, we can reconcile the whole mess. But on our most recent statement comes a charge for $24.95 from “SPOKEO”. “What the dickens is a Spokeo?” says the bookkeeping side of the family. A quick internet search revealed the company that we’d already paid 95 cents to—back in November.

“Wear us out” tactics

What followed was a frustrating back-and-forth computer “chat” with Tony, a representative from the search company. We laid out the issue that we’d paid for a one-time search, and had not authorized any other payments. Could they kindly refund our $24.95?

Tony: Regarding this matter, I’ve cancelled the Spokeo subscription. This discontinues all further charges effective immediately and access will expire on February 28, 2022. An automated Spokeo email confirming this has been sent to the email address on file. For further confirmation, would you like my Agent ID?

Us: I also need to have the charge for the monthly service refunded to my credit card.

Tony: I understand your request. Canceling the renewal feature does not generate an automatic refund. However, you do have access to utilize the service until its expiration. Is there anything else that I can assist you with today?

Us: I did not order a subscription. I paid 97 cents for a one-time search.

Tony: I hear you. At this time, I’ll go ahead and review the account and see what I can do. Please give me a moment. … Thank you for standing by. For this request, I’ve processed a refund of $9.98 and you can expect it to process back to the card on file within 3-7 business days, which excludes holidays and weekends. Access to searches will remain until February 17, 2022.

Pennies on the dollar

J.J.-at-the-English-language-Wikipedia

Don’t you just love it? You’ve been charged $24.95 for something you never authorized, and the company graciously offers you $9.98 back. We wrangled back and forth, and Tony then said Spokeo would refund the $24.95. But while he was working that over, we took a quick check and, sure enough, there was a pending charge for yet another $24.95! By the end of the chat, we were assured our nearly $50 would be credited back to our account in a few days. We thought it was all over.

Silly us. This morning we looked closer at our credit card statement for December. Sure enough, there it was again—another $24.95 charge. This time our “friend” Alex at Spokeo was a bit more recalcitrant than Tony had been.

Alex: I apologize for any frustration this may have caused. Rest assured the account has been canceled and you will not be billed any further. For further confirmation and peace of mind, would you like my Agent ID number?

Us: Do I understand that you are refusing to refund the amount?

Alex: I apologize for any frustration this may have caused. Please give me a moment while I look into your request. … What I’m able to do is refund back $9.98. You will see this within the next 3-7 business days. Is there anything else I may assist with today?

Us: No, that will not be sufficient. I am requiring a full refund of $24.95. The amount that I DID NOT authorize.

Alex: While all our payments are non-refundable, we value the opportunity to offer you a solution. The refund of $9.98 is the maximum amount that can be refunded.

It wasn’t until we informed Alex that we’d not only file a dispute with the credit card company, and that we’d also bring it to the attention of the Attorney General, that somehow Alex got authorization to refund the full amount.

Lessons

What lessons are there in here? First, OUR BAD for not doing a line-by-line review of each and every credit card statement. Under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974, card customers have only 60 days to dispute a credit card charge. The clock starts ticking when the statement on which the charge appears is issued. In our case, if Spokeo had stood its ground and refused to refund the $24.95 from the December statement, we would have been up the creek.

Review your credit card statements as soon as they show up. If you find something fishy, contact the merchant first. It may be the billing name on the statement isn’t the name you associate with the company, and you really did make a purchase. If you can’t resolve it directly with the merchant, act quickly to dispute the charge with your credit card company. They have to resolve the issue within 90 days, under the law.

Second, when dealing with cases where you’ve been dealt with wrongly, don’t take it lying down. In our case, the company simply tried to wear us out, first by refusing to do anything, then by offering us pennies-on-the-dollar.

Apply the principles elsewhere, too

The same principle applies when dealing with any unfair situation. We can only think of the countless RVers we’ve heard from who’ve been given the dirty end of the stick by RV dealerships when dealing with repair work. Stand your ground, and don’t hesitate to file a complaint with the appropriate authorities. Make sure they know it. Too often dealers will simply wait you out, and hope you go away. Make a pest of yourself. And good luck!

Other stories by Russ and Tiña De Maris

##RVT1039

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Michelle W
7 months ago

I’ve had the same experience. But my charges had different co. names each month. This was on my bank debit card, not credit card (my bad).It took me 2 months of intermittent searching to find out what the charge was for. Totally different name than site from which I initially ordered, and phone # listed didn’t help (too complicated to explain). Third month my bank contacted me and asked if I wanted to dispute. I was hesitant because you must get a new bank card with new #. I had several monthly debits tied to my number so didn’t want to do that. Only other solution was to pay for a stop payment, but bank told me that in their experience the charge would just come again next month & stop payment fee would have been wasted. Seems these companies do this all the time. Bank said there are hundreds each month, mostly $24.95 charges. Bank credited my account, debited account charges came from, & sent me overnight new card.

Cecilia
7 months ago

And this is why we have signed up for purchase notifications on both of our credit cards. We get an instant text with the amount and where followed up by an email.

John Koenig
7 months ago

Last year, I had a VERY similar experience with a different “Search Service”. Almost ALL of my charges are on my Discover Card and, over the 40+ years I’ve used Discover Card, I’ve received EXCELLENT customer service, ALWAYS from U.S. based employees with whom ENGLISH is their primary language. I also have set Discover (and the few other credit cards I use) to notify me if ANY charges are posted to my account (they email or call me). That makes it super simple to keep track of any and everything I charge (as well as “questionable” charges and charge attempts). Sadly, Discover Card is generally NOT accepted outside of the U.S. so, any off shore purchases must be checked manually (I have found a couple of instances where an off shore “provider” will try to sneak in extra charges that I have NOT authorized). The old saying of “Caveat Emptor” still applies.

elkabong
7 months ago

I carry 3 credit cards. Each is designated for a specific type of purchase, fuel, shopping and online purchases. I also carry cash. Whenever I go to a convenience store I will see people buying items, soft drinks, chips, etc using a credit card to buy $5 in merchandise. I can only imagine the length of their statements every month(2+ pages). My statements (I don’t even always get one unless I use that card that month) are short and easy to look at. Cash is a disappearing commodity.

pursuits712
7 months ago

Call me OCD, but I check my bank accounts online almost daily, and my credit card online weekly. I have noticed that charges from (most often) local businesses may show up under a different name, depending on their business setup. By checking regularly, we are usually able to recall the day/amount but I have had to ask the bank to do more research for us on several occasions.

Being on the road, auto-deduct is a lifesaver for us. Insurance, utilities, bank loans, etc. have never presented a problem. I also set up autopay for bills that vary only a bit each month, usually because of billing cycle variance. I just round up to nearest 0 or use the amount for the highest bill we have received in the past. When we get home, we have a credit which I use the following month. The late-pay penalties and those for overdraw have gotten outrageous. I would much rather have a credit than a penalty.

Lindalee
7 months ago

I review my statements (bank [debit card] AND all credit card) religiously every month and I still found one of those $24.95 charges for a one-time search! I got it canceled AND refunded by filing a dispute with my credit card company – forget arguing with those idiots on the “help desk”! Still, the very next month a $24.95 charge – again dispute with the credit card company and get a refund! Guess after that they (the search company) decided that I was a bad mark and quit trying!

Good advice here – check line-by-line EVERY kind of “charge” statement you get!

Set an alert (not EVERY time) for charges over a certain amount – sure, you’ll get alerts when YOU spend over that amount but, if it is someone else, you’ll catch it FAST!

Gary
7 months ago

Every time I’ve had a fraudulent charge, Citibank has caught it and stop the charge.
Has happened about 5 times in the last 12 years. Never lost any money on any of it.
And no, I don’t get a text every freeking time I use my credit card.

John Gotelli
7 months ago

Most credit card cos. have dispute charge protocol ; have used several times worked OK

Del W
7 months ago

When using a credit card for any online purchase from a company you do not have a relationship, DO NOT use your regular card. Many card companies are now offering a virtual card number for one time use or limited use. This still shows upon your regular card but the company you did business with can not process more than the one time charge. The virtual card is useless after you use it so any company who tried to setup a monthly subscription or automatic renewal would be out of luck and you don’t have to worry about anything coming in you did not expect

Last edited 7 months ago by Del W
BWO
7 months ago
Reply to  Del W

Do you simply request this from your company prior to making the purchase? I had not heard of this, but it is a great idea.

The Lazy Q
7 months ago

One thing I learned from my recent home sale and canceling services. Do not sign up for automatic payments because it is hell to cancel and they will still bill you all the while. Directv was not so bad but still took 3 phone calls. I will never again do business with frontier communication or VIVINT alarm security. Buyer beware.

jillie
7 months ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

Never had that problem. Yet. We limit who can and cannot take money out of our account. Insurance for car is the only one so far. Its easier then trying to remember when.

Lindalee
7 months ago
Reply to  jillie

Same here, Jillie! My insurance company takes out for my vehicle and renter’s insurance fees only!

I learned a LONG time ago to not do any “automatic” withdrawals – as The Lazy Q stated, they are hell to get cancelled!

Spike
7 months ago

Russ & Tina: During your time on their website, did they ever refer to their “Terms of Service” via a hotspot link? My personal opinion is that you may have overlooked something.

These companies heavily rely on users not taking the time to click on hotspots and reading EVERYTHING about what they are signing up for by using the service and providing information. These links are intentionally not made obvious and buried in places people may not review.

The US is WAY behind Europe, Brazil, and some US states, on privacy issues and personal information use. An example is my inbox full of junk mail offers that I am required by the senders to “unsubscribe” from. Should be that one must SUBSCRIBE or they cannot continue to send daily junk mail. In a perfect world they would have to make it extremely obvious that you just signed up for a subscription.

Be careful with any service offered on the internet…especially those with a one-time cost that is too good to be true.

Ed D.
7 months ago
Reply to  Spike

Spike, I am with you on this one. There is always a place (the fine print we used to call it) where they attempt to hide their underlying intentions. Always read EVERYTHING that has to do with any online company you are dealing with! They will always try to get over on you. The other thing to do is to check online reviews about any outfit you are about to give your credit card info to. The reviews will warn you of what you are about to get yourself into!

James
7 months ago

Are you that naive to think that they were going to do a web search for ONLY $.98? That’s like getting a free product but giving your CC# to pay for only one time shipping.

Roger B
7 months ago

My Discover card monitors my account and ss# for credit inquiries each month for free. They also have a paid service that goes way further in monitoring. We bought fuel in Minnesota and a duplicate charge showed up a month later. No problem getting it solved. And it’s not a huge deal to speak to a representative here in the US who actually speaks English if you have a question.

jillie
7 months ago
Reply to  Roger B

They screwed us after paying off the balance. We dropped them and then got an attorney to stop them. That was 20 years ago. No more discover. They are nasty buggers.

travelingjw
7 months ago

Comcast is one of the worst at this! Their technique is to place you on hold if you cannot resolve the issue and want to speak to a supervisor. Consistently the hold time is 30 – 40 minutes. Their other technique is to tell you that a Supervisor will tell you the same things as I am telling you. I am sure they are not alone, but since have a lot of their services we are on the phone with them once every few months.

jillie
7 months ago
Reply to  travelingjw

We are leaving comcast because of the dirty tricks they put into the billing and returning items. direct tv att is doing the streaming at half the cost. See my comment below.

chris
7 months ago

This sounds like somebody still doing bills the old-fashioned way: on paper. Monthly bill-paying duty? Statements? Was this article written 30 years ago?

Last edited 7 months ago by chris
Lindalee
7 months ago
Reply to  chris

I can still review my statements even if they are NOT on paper! All companies make statements for their credit card or debit card patrons – you just go to their website and sign in and, wall-la, there is your statement! Review line-by-line, every month or get screwed!

Scott
7 months ago
Reply to  chris

It beats getting taken by some of these scams that you hear about. Look at those monthly statements for the small charges that are sampling from some less than upstanding companies…they are looking for a bigger payoff. Managing your bills “the old fashioned way” allows for you to track your spending habits and to watch for the unexpected rate changes for services that if auto pay, you might miss.

Neal Davis
7 months ago

The same thing happened to me; buying a single search resulted in actually purchasing a subscription. It was something other than Spokeo and we got a full refund AND a cancellation after only one call, but it still made me much more resistant to dealing with these “friendly” search services. I also pay much more attention to our credit card statements after this episode. Thank you for sharing your ordeal. I am sure that everyone reading it will benefit.

jillie
7 months ago

Comcast is just as bad. Our daughter said she didn’t need a television in her room because she can watch stuff on her computer. So we returned the second remote and base back to them last August. I was not paying attention to the statements until last month when I saw a refund and went huh? Thats when I really looked and went nuts on comcast. We had been charged for the second remote and base and never credited. They refund us all the money dated back to September but yes buyer beware and read your statements. I know we are considering leaving comcast for direct tv because you do not need a box its all streaming. We did leave comcast internet for att 65 for life deal on internet. Now they have something for streaming. Still cleaning out dvr comcast so we can just cancel them completely. buyer beware with comcast.

Ivor
7 months ago

We do NOT wait for the monthly statement – firstly I keep track of every charge I make, I then check my Credit Card EVERY DAY to see A) whether the charge has gone through, and B) that it is the correct amount.
We have had a similar situation where a charge was not “authorized” and the Rep tried to offer us a discount with the promise not to make further charges.
We told him in no uncertain terms that nothing less than a complete and full refund was acceptable – we were not interested in making use of something we didn’t want until our “charge” expired.
Finally, the threat of putting the charge in dispute was enough to get them to do “the right thing”.
Have never considered not checking my bank or credit cards daily!

Lindalee
7 months ago
Reply to  Ivor

Ivor, guess you and I will be considered old fogies LOL! These young uns will learn soon enough unfortunately for them! Guess we all learned the hard way though!

Montgomery D Bonner
7 months ago

Oh, another thing, setup CC and bank account security, so that you are sent e-mail about ever charge over 1.00. And bank notifications over 5.00. Then is something happens you are not aware of, you have a notification on activity, you then can call bank/CC company and immediately dispute charge before you call the company, just inform them you did not authorize the charge, and have told bank to not pay it. They will not get into fight with bank. Now you are fully trained.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago

You left out that means your credit card has been compromised. Im not talking about the little nuisance charges coked up by some Marketing MBA being discussed here. So, when you do that they will cancel your account, until your bank can reissue a new number.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago

Look, here’s how this game is played. They are trained to give you the Texas Two Step. More often than not, there will be a percentage of you guys, that give up on the charge, because as you are talking to them, they reference a page of “canned” responses. The really slimy ones do it so much, they can recite chapter and verse, without referencing the notes infront of them.

You have to drill down into the back office personnel, to get some relief.

One time, i was drilling deep, and the person was very slimy, and was borderline rude. but its all recorded. They weed out those who blow a gasket on you in your attempt for proper closure. So, asking for their supervisor, I was told, ” I have no supervisor” when asked to speak to them. So, I said, who do you call when the place is on fire, his response, “the fire dept.”

I told the dude, man you’re good, to which i heard him chuckle. Then i just called my credit card company and disputed the charge, and had it reversed.

jillie
7 months ago

comcast is a master at that one. just getting an operator live voice takes forever. good luck we are leaving for att direct tv streaming and already have a deal on the internet. Still considering sling tv as well.

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