Here is a scam you might want to think about. The following incident probably isn’t illegal, but I call it a scam because it’s a tricky maneuver by a credit card company to assess a late fee for the non-payment of an unauthorized and nonexistent charge. I’m changing the name of the companies involved. One will be Company A and the other will be Company B. Here’s how it all came about in my case.
Company A, an internet security company, sent me an E-mail asking if I wanted to extend my security coverage for another year for $58. I immediately sent Company A an email informing them that I was unaware of any paid coverage from their company in the first place and informing them that they were not authorized to “extend” their “coverage.”
About a month later, I received a statement from Company B, a credit card company that I have used for many years. The statement had a balance due of $58. The charge was from Company A.
I immediately called Company B and informed them that the charge was unauthorized and that they were not to pay it. Company B’s representative refused to eliminate the charge, instructing me instead to call Company A. I informed the representative that I wasn’t going to pay the bill and if Company B insisted that I pay it, I intended to cancel my card. I terminated the conversation in view of Company B’s refusal to budge.
The matter rested at that point until my next bill arrived about a month later. The $58 charge remained on the statement along with a $39 late fee.
Rather than contact Company B this time, I called Company A (an action I should have taken to begin with) and was connected to a representative in a foreign country. I explained the events that had transpired, that the renewal of my internet security coverage had been unauthorized, and that I had notified Company A by an E-mail to that effect.
During this conversation, I attempted to determine how Company A had managed to obtain my credit card number since I had never purchased a product from Company A. The representative was unable to provide me with any information on the matter and as I questioned him in more detail, he finally offered to cancel the $58 charge previously submitted to Company B. He stated that he would issue a debit to Company B and send me an e-mail verifying the debit. He further stated that he would remove my credit card number from the files of Company A. Approximately twenty minutes later, I received an email from Company A verifying the submission of a debit to Company B.
As far as I was concerned, that was the end of it. But I was mistaken. Two days ago, I received a statement from Company B. The statement contained a debit entry regarding the charge from Company A. However, the original $39 late fee not only remained, Company B assessed an additional $15 late fee for my failure to pay the original $39 late fee on an unauthorized charge. The statement also included an interest charge of $3.00. The balance on this latest statement is $58.
This morning, I phoned Company B about the late fees and the interest charge. Together, we went over the sequence of events and the charges. To my surprise, Company B’s representative, once he had an opportunity to look over my record, immediately agreed to remove the charges. I felt relieved.
But in thinking over the manner in which Company A mysteriously submitted an umauthorized charge to Company B, the credit card company’s failure to remove the charge or at least flag the entry when I notified them, and finally, the immediate satisfaction I received from both companies when I pressed the issue, left a negative impression in my mind about the way companies arbitrarily and with virtual impunity impose unrealistic fees on an unsuspecting public.
I hazard that the events I’ve described in my own case are more prevalent than suspected. If I am correct, that would mean the companies take a calculated risk based on their experience, wagering that only a certain number of customers will notice extra charges and even if noticed, hesitate to complain. If only ten percent complain and receive satisfaction, the 90 percent who placidly pay the charges without questioning their validity probably remit enough extra money to the companies to pay for a few executive salaries and bonuses.
The one unknown factor that still irks me is Company A’s original charge for renewing an internet security system that I did not purchase in the first place. Since I have never purchased any of Company A’s products or services, I can only conclude that one of their security systems may have been bundled with a host of other software on a desktop machine I purchased a few years ago from a major retail outlet. I paid for that purchase with a credit card issued by Company B, a card that I use rarely. Somehow, without my knowledge, the retail company may have provided the card number to Company A, or Company A may have received it from another source. Who knows?
At any rate, the issue has been resolved, for the moment. If it pops up again, I may need a lawyer.