Who’s Been Taking Me To The Cleaners?

I didn’t recognize a $68 charge on my December MasterCard bill from a place called FlyCleaners. Since legitimate charges sometimes show up under unfamiliar names, I Googled FlyCleaners and learned that it’s a laundry service. I’ve never used a laundry service in my life, so I called Citibank to report the error on my bill.

Citi credited my account for the $68 error, and I thought that was the end of the story. I didn’t cancel my card because I assumed the charge was an innocent mistake. Wrong!  When a new MasterCard bill arrived earlier this week, it included six new charges from FlyCleaners, which totaled  around $300.

I immediately called Citi again, this time to cancel my card and get a new one. And, I called FlyCleaners. Turns out, when the laundry company called the number associated with the first $68 charge (after Citi notified it about my dispute), the person who answered said he was “Geri Brin’s assistant,” “had use of my credit card” and was “doing the laundry for her.”

This is pure insanity, I thought. Despite the fact that I had reported the first charge as erroneous, and Citi called FlyCleaners to investigate, FlyCleaners continued to accept my credit card number on its app as payment for its laundry washing and folding services. And Citi continued to let charge after charge on my account move through its system.

Technology may be more sophisticated than ever before, but it’s filled with more holes than a sponge. Fraud is rampant in the retail industry, much of it happening online. I recently heard about a young woman who would open a new credit card, make an obscenely expensive purchase, then call to claim her card was stolen and the charge wasn’t hers. She got away with it a number of times, then abruptly stopped her crime spree for fear she’d be caught.

With so many technological geniuses running around the country,  why has no one figured out how to put an end to abuses such as credit card fraud and identity theft?

It’s easy for a waiter (a saleswoman or gas station attendant, for example) to steal my credit card number when I give her or him the card to pay the charge, look up my address, charge something online, and have merchandise sent to a different address.  Banks simply don’t check the legitimacy of small charges for products that are shipped to addresses other than the billing address, a former Citi employee told me.

And, guess who ultimately pays for all the cheating taking place around the world?   You may say it’s the bank, because it immediately takes fraudulent charges off your bill when you call. But it’s actually all of us.  Just think how much interest you pay each month if you make only a partial payment on your bill.  Credit card interest rates are out of sight, in part, because the banks are protecting themselves from thieves.

This is not the first time my Citi credit card account has been compromised.  It’s happened at least two other times in the last 12 months, which greatly concerns me. Is the same person or group of people getting my new card number, and how are they doing it? Are these people employees of  one of the stores or services I frequent?  Is a Citi employee(s)  who issues new cards the perpetrator?  Should I completely stop using my credit card , and only use checks or cash?

Have any of your credit cards been abused by bad, bad people? I’d love to know the details if you care to share them.  

  • Marilyn Scher

    I too am a CitiBank customer and have their credit card. Last month I looked at my statement and saw at least 6-8 charges from Seamless. There were food charges from stores all around the city. I have never used Seamless in my life. I called CitiBank and they immediately removed the charges and issued me a new card. I don’t think that they even try to investigate the fraud because it is so rampant. It’s just a pain to keep having to change your card.

  • I had my Bank of America credit card compromised 4 times in 6 months. One time before I even used it. I moved to another credit card company and so far so good it hasn’t happened again. Unfortunately a lot of people look at the last time they used they card, but it isn’t always the case, so it’s hard to figure out how it happened.

  • DriftwoodLover

    You nit the nail on the head — they don’t really care because the huge interest rates they charge cover the cost of the crimes. I have had several credit cards contact me over the years when I ordered something but had it shipped elsewhere (didn’t want it sitting on my porch in bad weather). They were checking before it became fraud. Sometimes I see a weird name on my statement and get alarmed and ready to call … and then realize it was something I purchased on ebay weeks earlier!

  • Kathy Smith

    Chase is excellent with fraudulent charges and seems to find them before I even see them. Get a Chase card.

    • Harmony Mercedes

      I agree. Chase is great at spotting fraudulent charges. They’ll contact me both my email and phone if they think a charge looks unusual. It’s great. I used to have a Citi card and had to cancel it several times (similar to Geri) because it kept getting stolen. So, I finally moved to Chase cards. … I also have a Capital One card, which is great because it sends me an email every single time my card is used. As a result, I’ve been able to spot fraudulent charges twice in the past two years immediately after they happened – and so I’ve been able to stop the charge from going through and cancel the card immediately.

  • Cheryl Lee

    This has happened to me several times. I always call to cancel the charge immediately and my credit card company takes it right off. The only time they have closed the account and issued me a new card was when the amount was over $500.00. Now I still use my credit card, however, I check every charge, every month, and I pay my card in full each month. It’s just crazy all the fraud out there!

    • Geri Brin

      Hi Cheryl Lee, It is crazy. Thanks for your comment. Enjoy your weekend, Geri