Tuesday, November 28, 2023


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


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.


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


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Kris C (@guest_234472)
6 months ago

Life is complicated in this day and age. I check my 2 credit cards and bank statement every few days for accuracy. And…….I never sign up for auto pay on my bills, unless the vendor requires it. I am fully capable of having a list of bills to pay each month, a list of when to pay them and the ability and wherewithal to pay them. They always make it sound like I am helpless and incapable of managing even the simplest of tasks. A bunch of b.s. like, “avoid missing a payment”. It is not rocket science to have a list of monthly bills and when they are due. I’m never comfortable with the idea of them having a monthly pass to grab money from my checking account. I will pay them when and if I feel like paying them.

Neal Davis (@guest_234432)
6 months ago

Great advice! Thank you!

Rich (@guest_234427)
6 months ago

we not only reconcile our credit card statements each month, we have also set up instant alerts. anytime any of our cards is used to make a purchase greater than $0 an alert is sent to my cell phone. EZ to set up.

Tom (@guest_234474)
6 months ago
Reply to  Rich

We do the same after our card was used in LV last September. A small charge was made for under $5. 2 days later it was charged all over LV. Was able to cancel the card and set up notification to my phone for all transactions. It may seem like a pain but being out of town and having to cancel my card was more of a pain. I glad when traveling we have 2 cards with us.

John the road again (@guest_234406)
6 months ago

I’ve always reconciled my credit card statements the same way I do with my checking accounts. Yes, it’s more work. But it lets nothing slip by. Just as surprising as mystery charges can be are the things you charged that never got billed!

Sandi Pearson (@guest_234430)
6 months ago

Still waiting for that one…never have I charged something that it didn’t hit my card! But..I’ll keep watching. You are charmed…congrats!

Jack (@guest_234405)
6 months ago

It’s amazing the fast action response you can achieve by notifying your credit card company

Spike (@guest_234394)
6 months ago

This article is over a year old, but the title is completely misleading. The CC statement didn’t and doesn’t HURT you…the fact is it SAVED you!!!

Jim Johnson (@guest_234382)
6 months ago

I am still shocked at the number of people who only monitor the current balance on either credit cards or debit cards (checking accounts). Folks you HAVE to monitor the transactions on those accounts. Federal regulations provide strict time limits on how long you have to dispute charges.

Nearly all financial providers allow you to monitor transactions online. You don’t have to wait for paper statements to peek at what is happening. By scanning transactions every couple weeks, you will have a shorter list to scan and are less likely to overlook ‘vampire’ transactions that slowly bleed you dry.

Diane Mc (@guest_234410)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Johnson

Totally paperless. I have small limits set on my credit cards & receive a text whenever a charge is made over that limit. I use cc apps to review activity frequently.

Michelle W (@guest_166726)
1 year 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 (@guest_165626)
1 year 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 (@guest_165461)
1 year 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 (@guest_165453)
1 year 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 (@guest_165426)
1 year 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 (@guest_165270)
1 year 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 (@guest_165223)
1 year 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 (@guest_165179)
1 year ago

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

Del W (@guest_165178)
1 year 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 1 year ago by Del W
BWO (@guest_165420)
1 year 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 (@guest_165166)
1 year 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 (@guest_165190)
1 year 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 (@guest_165271)
1 year 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!

T & S (@guest_234369)
6 months ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

I’m an ex banker and have seen this exact scenario time and time again where customers accounts are still being debited after cancelling services. Stop payments don’t often work because they are driven by the amount. If the company changes the amount by $0.01, the stop pay won’t catch it. Customers end up having to close their account or get a new debit card. I do not auto debit anything. And I still balance my checkbook on a monthly basis too. Lol!! You only have 60 days to dispute a charge so check them over line by line as well.

Spike (@guest_165163)
1 year 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. (@guest_165284)
1 year 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 (@guest_165155)
1 year 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 (@guest_165140)
1 year 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 (@guest_165192)
1 year 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.

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