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?