Fraud and deceptive charging practices
Around this time last year, my husband and I began getting a sudden barrage of text alerts that thousands of dollars were being spent all over the nation, draining our account – someone was buying linens on our tab in New Jersey, filling up their gas tank in Miami, and going on a Wal-Mart shopping spree in Ohio, all within minutes. We realized quickly we were victims of fraud, and although it was a newer card, so only two companies had the number (and we had an idea where the leak was), we didn’t have time to worry about that, we had to scramble to close the card before the grinches stole our entire Christmas.
That was a blatant case of fraud that was well organized, and although we lost a lot of money, we were able to get some of it back. What is less clear is “grey charges,” you know, those $9.99 charges you agreed to a year ago, forgot about, that are still being charged to your card even though you’re not using the product, and now the charges have slowly creeped up $1.99 a month here, and $2.99 there. BillGuard.com’s blog is completely devoted to the fight against unfair charges, and while not all forgotten charges are unfair, BillGuard is shedding light on practices (some ethical, others questionable) that businesses use to bill your card.
“Customers swiping their credit and debit cards this holiday season should beware: one in four people fell victim to a deceptive or unwanted charge within the past six months,” the company said in a statement. “While some of these charges constitute fraud, many are legal – but unwanted – charges hidden in fine print.”
While they say 5.0 percent of unwanted charges constitute fraud, the other 95 percent are “grey charges,” comprised of legal but sneaky tactics, such as hidden fees, unwanted subscriptions, overcharges and unrecognizable charges. “These charges often are the result of companies that are banking on the fact that people don’t read the fine print or verify their transactions as carefully as they should,” the company asserts.
Learning about Grey Charges
Be sure to set up text alerts this season for all spending on your personal and business credit and debit cards, and don’t ignore charges simply because they’re not big ticket line items. As a bonus, we’ve learned that if you see a funky charge, or something you don’t recognize and you question its legitimacy, tweet @BillGuard, and they say they’ll help find answers to unrecognized charges through analysis of millions of billing disputes to help find similar problems with your bills.