Dear Liz: Regarding your recent answer regarding a mysterious debit charge, I beg to differ with your quoted source, Odysseas Papadimitriou of Evolution Finance, who said it was unlikely to be fraud. It took me all of 30 seconds to search online for “credit card fraud small amount” and found multiple reliable sites dedicated to just the kind of small-amount fraud your reader was asking about. I’m amazed that anyone claiming the slightest amount of expertise in credit card scams wouldn’t be aware of this. Ironically, nothing would help the scammers more than purported experts advising the public at large to ignore this type of fraud and assume instead it’s the result of their own oversight. Why such clearly wrong-headed advice is appearing in your column is beyond me.
Answer: Small-amount fraud is a problem — for credit cards. The original question and Papadimitriou’s answer related to a debit card transaction. While small-amount fraud is certainly possible with debit cards, Papadimitriou said the far more common pattern was for thieves to attempt to steal as much as possible before the card was shut down. That, and other details of the transaction, led him to conclude the credit union was probably correct that the transaction wasn’t fraudulent.
Dear Liz: In reading the story of the person with the errant charges on a debit card, I had a similar issue. I found a charge in a town where I had not traveled, at a business I was unfamiliar with. My bank wanted me to contact the business and explain my issue. I said NO! It turns out someone had “keyed” in my debit card number for a $19 charge in error. My response to my bank was that they made the error on giving away my money and that if they wanted to continue being my bank, they would resolve this issue and replace my money. It took about two weeks, but the merchant complied with the bank’s request and gave back the money.
Answer: In the original question, the transaction occurred in the questioner’s home town and the credit union said a PIN was used. It’s highly unlikely that both a debit card number and its PIN would be randomly entered in error.
But your experience highlights the problems inherent in using a debit card. Fraudulent transactions come directly out of your checking account, and you sometimes have to fight with your financial institution to get the money back.
With credit cards, you don’t have to pay the questionable charges until the credit card company investigates.
It’s vitally important to review all transactions on both debit and credit card accounts, and to question any unfamiliar charges. In this case, the merchant wasn’t clearly identified and the customer certainly has the right to push the credit union for more detail. But when all indicators point to forgetfulness rather than fraud, the reader may have to accept that the charge was legitimate after all.
Today’s top story: How to calculate your retirement number. Also in the news: Hilton HHonors program suffers a data breach, the biggest mistakes people make when saving for retirement, and a beginner’s guide to taxes for newly married couples.
3 Ways to Calculate Your Retirement Number
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The 6 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Saving for Retirement
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6 Ways Student Loan Servicers Are Trying to Trick You
Pay close attention to every correspondence.
7 Times to Use a Debit Card Instead of a Credit Card
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Waiting it out.
I’ll be joining award-winning artist Sylvia Saint James and my friend Lois Frankel (author of several books, including “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office”) on Sunday, Dec. 7 for the films and the reception at the Autry Center in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. Tickets are $75 for adults and $25 for children, and include admission to the museum (which currently has a special exhibition on Route 66).
For more information, please visit Bloom Again’s site.
Today’s top story: How often you need to change your passwords. Also in the news: The truth about life insurance, annuities, and financial aid, how to catch up on your retirement savings after 50, and the four necessities for a successful retirement.
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Over Age 50? How to Catch Up on Retirement Savings
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4 Necessities for a Successful Retirement
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A Prescription for Financial Wellness
Getting yourself financially healthy.
Today’s top story: The best additions to your financial toolbox. Also in the news: Safeguarding your digital assets, saving money on moving expenses, and what you should look for when choosing a new bank.
10 Best Personal-Finance Tools to Better Manage Your Money
Additions to your financial toolbox.
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Ten minutes you can’t afford not to spare.
Moving on a Tight Budget: 7 Ways to Save a Ton of Money
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The most important things to look for.
Today’s top story: How to save money on your upcoming tax bill. Also in the news: Tracking your wasteful spending, how to get the best deal on car insurance, and why it pays to shop around for Medicare insurance plans.
7 Money-Saving Tips to Cut Your Tax Bill
How to make tax season a little less painful.
How to Track Your Most Ridiculously Wasteful Spending
Shame yourself into frugality.
Here’s How to Get the Best Deal on Car Insurance – Eventually
The older you get, the less you’ll pay.
It pays to shop for Medicare insurance plans
Welcome to open enrollment season.
Parents of special needs kids can bank on trusts
Providing for your child’s needs after you’re gone.
Dear Liz: I read your answer to the person who returned a car and wanted to be free of that debt. Our situation is somewhat different. My son’s father had a massive stroke and died two weeks after signing a lease for a Camry on which he made a $2,000 down payment. My grown son, who is left to deal with everything, took the car back to the dealership, and they assured him nothing further would be needed. The dealership then sold the car for $18,000 at an auction and said $8,000 is still owed on this car since my son’s father signed a legal contract.
Answer: The money is still owed. Whether the dealership will ever collect is another matter.
This debt is now part of the dead man’s estate, along with any other loans or credit accounts he owed at the time of his death. If the estate has sufficient available assets, the executor is required to pay those bills. If there aren’t sufficient assets, creditors may have to accept less than they’re owed or nothing at all.
If your son is the executor, he should hire an attorney experienced in settling estates to help him deal with these details. Nolo’s book “The Executor’s Guide” also will help him understand his duties and obligations.