Debit Card Fraud - No Wonder They Get Away With It - Banks are Clueless!

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Debit Card Fraud - No Wonder They Get Away With It - Banks are Clueless!

clueless-banks.jpg I'm a busy guy, so sometimes I don't check my bank statement and debit purchases for a couple of months. Well, today I see a strange debit charge for $146.25 made on 1/12/2010 - over 2 months ago. Here's the strange part - the address for the debit charge was listed as "110 Richards Ave Norwalk, CT." "Boy," I thought to myself, "that address sure sounds familiar. I think it's the Trans-Lux building."

Sure enough, I Google the address and it's for the Trans-Lux building I used to work in several years ago - so I'm quite familiar with this building and its tenants. TMC moved its editorial staff, art department, and TMC Labs into this additional building for awhile due to fast growth. This building, known as the Trans-Lux building had several corporate tenants, however the property filed for foreclosure, so there are no more tenants there that could possibly charge my debit card.

Not only would I remember if I used my debit card at my prior office, but again, there are no more tenants there - it's abandoned and even has some graffiti on its walls. Maybe it's backpay for the damage I did in TMC Labs while hammering and testing products at the ole' Trans-Lux offices. I may have chucked a product or two against the wall, floor, etc. - for you know - durability testing. Or that time I nearly burned the building down - or at least took out the building's electrical grid. Ok, so I exaggerate.

Damn it, has my debit card and PIN been cloned? Surely, the banks wouldn't allow a bogus address to appear on my bank statement.

I asked my wife if she knew what this charge was for and she had no idea. She would have to drive 32 miles from home to use it at this location, so I was doubtful she was to blame.

Finally, I decided to call Citibank. Let me just say they were absolutely useless. Let me recite the conversation. [trimmed for brevity]

Me: I have a charge for $146.25 on 1/12/10 and I don't know what it is. I googled the 110 Richards Ave address and I see the Trans-Lux building, which has multiple tenants.

Citi: Sorry sir, all I see in my systems is the same address you see.

Me: So you don't have any additional info?

Citi: No. Sorry sir. Would you like to dispute the charge. Once you do, they'll do an investigation and determine exactly where this card was used.

Me: Ok

[Transfers me to the investigation / dispute division & puts me on hold]

Citi guy #2: I understand you wish to dispute the $146.25 made on 1/12/10?

Me: Yes. Do you have an more info on this charge?

Citi guy #2: Hold on, let me see...


Citi guy #2: I see something called Panashield.

Me: Where are you seeing that?

Citi guy #2: I Googled it.

Me: You googled it? You googled the address? I did that already. I already researched Panashield and they sell shielded rooms and anechoic chambers. Not exactly something I would buy. There's no other info on what company charged this card?

Citi guy #2: How bout Vista Group International?

Me: No. [apparently he's going to list every company he finds on Google]

Citi guy #2: Well, I can see that it was your wife's debit card and the person entered their PIN.

Me: [thinking - Why the heck would my wife use her debit card for something down here in Norwalk?] - So there's no way of finding out which company charged this? I can drive to this address - it's only 1 mile away and investigate further, but I need some sort of company name. Though it's an abandoned building as far as I know.

Citi guy #2: I suggest you talk to your wife and see if she knows about the charge.

Me: I did that already.

Citi guy #2: Well, why don't you do your investigation at the building and see if you can find out anything, then if you want you can call back and dispute the charge.

Me: [grumbling under my breath] Ok. Thanks. Bye.

So then I did some more googling and discovered this page listing the 110 Richards Ave address: I almost didn't click through since the Trans-Lux building is an office building and doesn't contain a retail pet store. I decided to click through and saw Choice Pet Supply listed. Eureka! My wife sometimes buys dog food from this place. But wait a minute - they're located in Danbury, CT - 29 miles away. What gives?

I figured perhaps they run the debit & credit card numbers through their office headquarters. Perhaps they even forgot to tell the bank to update the address info for their credit/debit card machine? So I call Choice Pet Supply and sure enough they confirmed my suspicions.

So why is it that credit cards list the full company name for credit card transactions but debit card transactions only list an address? Surely, the banks must have to deal with tons of calls like mine from customers that legitimately purchased something buy can't figure out what its for simply from address information.

They're losing money if they have to field calls to help customers decipher legitimate charges. The simple fix is to provide more information on debit purchases in the bank statement, including the company name & a phone number. Credit cards statements have that info already. I must be missing something, because if it were that easy I would assume the penny-pinching banks would have been smart enough to have done it already to save money so they don't have to field calls from people like me. Wait a minute! My bad. That explains everything.

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