Have WiseTechie.com email ?
Login Wisetechie.com email


Sep 02

There was a time when American Express was considered to be the most consumer friendly card company. Usually comprising of a wealthy clientele, It was supposed to solve all consumer issues in a breeze and in a fair manner to the consumer.

Thankfully till now I never really had a dispute with a merchant that would need this mediation, however this July was the first time I did. I went to Sam’s club and bought a $100 membership from them. I split that membership charge onto 2 credit cards, 2 American Express credit cards to be more precise, $45 and $55.

When the charges settled, I saw that both my cards had been charged $100, obviously some computer system somewhere had a bug. I thought this is something which Amex would easily resolve. After all both the cards I used to make the purchases carry an annual fee and I consider Amex to be the best in customer service. But, boy oh boy, I was going to be proven wrong. Initially, American Express did not believe me and asked me to submit proof of the overcharging. This is even before they contact the merchant. I submitted the proof along with a description of what had exactly conspired. I have pasted the letter and the receipt below redacting crucial information.

After submitting the proof, there was radio silence for a month and a half. After that time period expired, American Express sends me a message that merchant has shared the disputed transactions receipt and the dispute is closed in the favor of the merchant. I wondered how it could be since I had clearly split the transaction.

Lo and behold ! the receipt also shows I had split the transaction onto 2 cards and the 2 $100 charges were incorrect. Some brainless idiot who is incompetent to even read receipts decided the dispute in the favor of the merchant at American Express. Here are the details :

To

AMERICAN EXPRESS CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT

CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT

PO BOX 981532

EL PASO, TX 79998-1532

Subject: Dispute of transaction at Sam’s club

Details:

I had split the total amount of ($100) on 2 of my cards both Amex cards, one card ending in 63006 was supposed to be charged $45 and the other card ending in 21004 was supposed to be charged $55. However for some inexplicable reason both cards are charged $100.

As you can see in the receipt, I had very clearly split the transaction onto 2 cards.

Thanks

image

 

Amex Response :

We would like to advise you of the status of your claim on your account from Sams Club Memberships. We removed the amount under review of $55.00 from your account during our investigation.

During our investigation, we contacted the merchant on your behalf and asked them to either provide an explanation or issue a credit for you.

In response to our inquiry, the merchant has provided us with the copy of signed charge receipt indicating your account has been charged correctly. We have attached the supporting documentation for your reference.

If you still question the charge, we request you to provide us with the documentation showing merchant overcharged. In absence of this documentation, we will not be able to represent your claim and investigate further.

Therefore, the amount under review has been reapplied to your account and will appear on your upcoming statement.

Thank you for giving us an opportunity to serve you.

Sincerely,

American Express Customer Care

The receipt is the exact same as above. Some paper pusher at Amex decided he doesn’t have to actually read a dispute or its documentation.

Now I know there is no way I can lose this dispute, but my faith in American Express as a company is shattered. I spent some time talking to an employee, re-filed the dispute and 10 mins later it was closed again in the merchant’s favor. I restarted another chat, this time with a ‘Harris’, some rude idiot who lost his cool after I told him I am not going on a 3 way call for something as crystal clear as this. This ‘Harris’ which I am sure is a fake name and some Indian call center is handling this then started to apologize. I am also Indian, but its so hard to talk to someone in a call center who doesn’t understand customer and company dynamics. Anyway, need to clear the air with his supervisor now. Posting this for posterity about how bad American Express customer care is.


Mar 02

As digital payments grow in the US and India, it becomes important to protect your credit card from fraud. While many banks will take care of charges after you report your card lost or stolen, you may be taken for a ride if someone uses your card and the bank deems it to be your responsibility. There are some common sense tips you can use to ensure the security of your credit card. Some of these tips are common to the US and India, however most cards in US are much better protected against fraud even though they have much less security features.

1.  Get a CHIP and PIN card. This is easier said than done in the US. Most banks in US are sending these out in batches but give your bank a call and ask them to send over a chip card. CHIP cards are harder to skim. In India, do the same. Many banks will want to charge you extra for a replacement. Tell them to go and pound sand. I had an encounter with Kotak Mahindra bank who wanted to charge me Rs.100 to get a Chip card. After I invoked their social media team at Twitter, I was able to get the chip cards sent to me for free.

 image

2.   Scratch that CVV out. Another way to do fraud is to memorize your card number and write down the expiry and the CVV. An easy way to prevent this fraud is to scratch out the CVV from behind your card (after memorizing it ofcourse Smile ).

image

3.   Swipe it in front of your eyes. Never let the waiter or the barista disappear with your card. Don’t get conscious or be embarrassed to ask the waiter to swipe the card in front of your eyes. A moment of inconvenience can prevent a large future loss. A lot of waiters would make a copy of your card using a skimmer while they take it to swipe it.

4.  Turn on mobile alerts. Most banks and credit card companies allow mobile alerts. These mobile alerts serve as an early warning system to you incase your card ever gets compromised and banks can immediately shut down fraudulent use of your card.

5. Never share your OTP. This is mostly with the Indian context. OTPs or one time passwords are issued by banks in India to authenticate card not present transactions. Never share those passwords with anyone including someone claiming to be from your bank. Also never share your card number, expiry or any other sensitive information with your bank either. They will never call asking for such information.

OTP


Dec 29

Lets start from the beginning of the timeline. Its October first week, I am in the US. Out of OCD and habit I check my Indian credit card by Standard Chartered. I see that there is a charge of almost 30000 rupees which I don’t recognize. I immediately call their call center and after going through a tedious IVRS system I finally get to talk to a real person. My call disconnects twice before I can complete the dispute. I send in a dispute declaration form to the bank for further processing the dispute. If I were in the US, this would be the end of it, the merchant would be penalized. That was not to be. Since we were in the beautiful land of India, everyone was just hoping to take customers for a ride. Standard Chartered and as I found Bank of Baroda later which was the payment processor for the merchant were pushing for the same.

After submitting the dispute form, I received a temporary credit and the online customer service advised me to pay the disputed money otherwise they would charge finance charges. I was shocked and flabbergasted at this. This is directly in contravention of any rule or guideline concerning the dispute process. I wrote off a letter to the RBI ombudsman after this highlighting that not only is Standard Chartered not assisting me properly, they are trying to arm twist me into payment. I also highlighted other procedural lapses by the bank. Here is a relevant portion of my letter to the RBI copied to standard chartered bank :

image

I sent the letters and promptly got busy in worklife. Pretty soon the dispute was closed in the merchant’s favor. I got to know this in standard chartered bank’s response to the RBI. It was full of half truths, but the most fascinating thing was the proof the merchant had submitted.

image

They claimed that a chargeslip was the proof of the transaction as submitted by the merchant. Its ridiculous that Indian banks think their customers are so dumb and illiterate. And this too in response to the RBI ombudsman. A chargeslip is generated in every transaction, it cannot be proof that someone committed the transaction. It’s common sense one would argue, however Standard Chartered bank had the audacity to attach the chargeslip as proof to the RBI. Thankfully, I still had my card and the signature on the chargeslip was just swiggly lines. They also claim this is industry standard, wow and yikes at the same time. If our CC industry believes that a chargeslip is proof enough for a transaction then I can safely say no fraud has even been committed using credit cards offline in India. Is this really the industry standard ?

Here is the fraudulent chageslip in all its glory, notice that the name looks like Waseem, maybe its fake or maybe the thief signed his real name :

image

What was interesting in Standard Chartered’s response to the RBI was that they agreed to reopen the dispute after initially deciding against me only due to the fact that I was abroad. I cringe at what would happen if I was in India, then the chargeslip with fake signature would have ensured that Standard Chartered would hold me responsible for the charge ? They also cleverly asked the RBI to close the complaint. At this point, I asked dad to prepare filing a case in consumer court, there was no way I was going to pay the fraudulent charges.

image

So post this drama, I shot off a response to RBI and Standard Chartered bank again questioning the shoddy proof and also asking the RBI to not close the complaint since the essence of the complaint was infact the charge itself and not whether they were allowing me to dispute it. Here is a copy of some of my points in the letter :

However to get to the pertinent points regarding the dispute:

1. I was not present in the country when the said transaction happened, and I have the card in my possession.

2. The signature shared by the merchant bank doesn’t even look like my name and just seems like scribbling. This is the signature on the back of my card for reference. As you can see as a security measure I had even scratched off the 3 digit CVV and always used the card carefully.

The merchant has obviously done a poor job of matching the signature for such a high value transaction or checking the identity.

3. I have also filed a case with the Navi Mumbai Police’s cyber cell

<complaint numbers here>

4. Given the facts of the case, I am able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the transaction is fraudulent and not committed by me and I have the card in my possession so there is no negligence on my part. I reported the fraud transaction as soon as I got to know about it.

Question to Bank:

I fail to understand how the charge slip is any kind of ‘proof’ that I had committed the transaction. It’s not evidence, it’s a fact that anytime a transaction happens, a chargeslip is generated. How is that even pertinent to the case at hand?

What is evidence is that the signature is a complete mismatch and scribble and since I did not sign that chargeslip, I am not the one who entered into the contract to pay for that charge.

Since the bank claims the dispute is currently in investigation, I accept their submission to wait for an outcome.

I would request RBI to keep the complaint open till a decision is reached by the bank in the matter. The crux of my complaint is that the transaction is obviously not done by me and I should not be responsible for the fraud and that matter is not yet resolved by the bank.

Thanks

Wisetechie

Copy to :

Nodal Officer, Standard Chartered Bank

After waiting for another month and a half, today I finally seem to have gotten confirmation that the disputed charge is finally reversed from my account. I hope this is the end of it. There is an important lesson in all of this especially if you use credit products in India. the protections to consumers seem to be very flimsy. If you use a credit product in India, insist on a chip card and if you use your card at restaurants, insist to go along with the waiter to swipe the card. Scratch off the CVV from the back of the card and most importantly flex your rights. My blood still boils thinking of how the chargeslip was meant to be proof of me committing the transaction. In my opinion it was only because I was in the US that the dispute was decided in my favor  (it still took 2.5 months).


Oct 10

Ok, so its no news to people that most banks in India are pathetic to customers. I think I am going to see some of that first hand. I woke one October morning seeing an abnormally high balance on my Standard Chartered India credit card. I was here sitting in the US so wondered why the large balance, I sent out a mail, soon there was a charge on my statement which I didn’t recognize. The charge was in Navi Mumbai, a city I have not visited for more than 5 years I think. So I call up Standard Chartered bank in India, went through their ancient and archaic phone banking system, and somehow managed to reach someone on phonebanking.

Suspiciously, I got disconnected twice on telling them about the dispute. Third time was a charm, I was told my card is blocked and I was told to send across a dispute form to them. I was also told I would get a temporary credit to my account. Awesome ! , yeah right, they are just complying with the law here. Note that I reported the fraud as soon as I could humanly, I didn’t get an alert on the transaction on my phone and even before the transaction had posted to my account, I had filed a dispute. I had my phone from India here and didn’t receive a call or SMS regarding the transaction worth half my credit limit in a city thousands of kilometers away from where I stay. so much for Standard Chartered’s automatic fraud detection. If I ever interview someone who has worked for them, I will ask about their algos or lack of algos to detect fraud.

Here is where things do downhill however, they are doing the above just to comply with the law, the real shrewdness of the bank comes in now. This is the dispute process outlined by the bank in a response to my netbanking message :

1) With regard to Dispute:

We are in receipt of the Dispute Declaration Form and have forwarded the same to the concerned department to investigate the disputed transactions.

We inform you that, we had provided temporary credit to your card account for the disputed transaction and the same will reflect in your next statement.   
As the process involves the concerned Merchant Establishment, his Banker and us, we will need a minimum of 45-50 days to complete the investigation. Formal correspondence will be sent to you with regard to the outcome of investigation.

We request you to contact us after 14 November 2015 to update with you the dispute status.

2) With regard to Dispute payment process:

Please note that you have the following two options regarding the repayment towards your account while the disputed charge is being investigated at our end.

a) You can pay the total outstanding (including the amount disputed), to ensure no financial charges are billed to your card account in the subsequent statements, while the investigations are in progress.

b) You have the option of paying the outstanding in your account less the transaction disputed by you. Your subsequent statements will incur financial charges due to short payment towards your outstanding amount.

Upon completion of the investigation at our end;

1) If we find that you have incurred the charges based on the supporting documents, the amount would be debited to your card account and you would be liable to pay the same, along with the financial charges accrued.

2) If we find that you have not incurred the charges (in the absence of any supporting documents provided to us by the Merchant), the permanent credit will be provided to your card account.

If the dispute resolves in customer’s favour, the financial charges will be reversed to their card account along with the disputed transaction.

 

This is the WTF part to me. Why am I responsible for these finance charges while the dispute is being processed. What’s the point of a temporary credit, only to appease RBI gods ? And why do I need to contact them after Nov 14th ? , shouldn’t they call me and let me know, they owe it to me when I have an annual fee of Rs.999 on the card. It’s a Manhattan Platinum, their most premier card. Well obviously, the disregard for the customer is uniform. There is a nice article on RBI around credit card disputes, apparently in 2013 RBI had asked banks to install chip and pin machines and to give chip and pin cards. The lazy cheap folks at Standard Chartered bank didn’t bother to issue a chip and pin card to me to save a little money. Compare that to HDFC and Citibank who had both issued chip and pin cards to me. Quoting from the article :

Pointing out that banks were told that there would be no further extensions, the RBI said, “It has been decided not to grant any further extension of time. Accordingly, banks not complying with the requirements shall compensate loss, if any, incurred by the cardholder using card at POS terminals not adhering to the mandated standards.”

There are usually two banks in every credit card transaction. One that issued the credit card and the other that has installed the swipe machine. The RBI has said that the card issuing bank should ascertain in three days whether the fraud has taken in a non-compliant machine and within seven days refund the money to the cardholder. The card issuing bank will in turn recover the money from the bank which has installed the swipe machine.

Not sure if it was even legal as per RBI for Stan Chart to not update my card to a chip and pin one.

There is also an onus now on banks to prove the credit card owner acted fraudulently, again, good luck proving that in court :

This has resulted in banks levying late-payment penalty. The new rule is announced by the Banking Cdes and Standard Board of India (BCSBI) that works to protect customer rights. It makes banks responsible to find evidence that the customer had authorised and was responsible for the disputed transactions.

I really hope I don’t have to go to court for this since I don’t want to waste time, but seeing Stan Chart’s response (finance charges making my blood boil), this may go down south pretty soon. To be fair, they haven’t yet decided the dispute. Lets see what information the merchant presents.


Feb 17

I just learnt today that TopCashBack has an Indian subsidiary. To people who may not know, TopCashBack is a site which gives you cashback for your regular shopping when you click via the website while going to the merchant.

So for example if you want to buy a pizza from Dominos and get extra cashback, do the following :

  1. Goto TopCashBack, signup or login if already signed up..
  2. Search for dominos and click on the link TopCashBack gives you
  3. Then use that window to purchase the pizza. If all goes well a few weeks later you have extra cashback in your account post the clicks.

And to my surprise out of all the stores I shopped in the past week it had cashback deals on each of them. And I am not kidding, here is the proof :

1. LensKart.com – Bought some lens solution for my brother here. Post purchase realised that I could have got Rs.120 cashback  had I clicked through via TopCashBack ( for a purchase between 500-999 rupees. Other offers on LensKart :

  • Online Purchase of orders over Rs.1000 ₹ 320.00
  • Online Purchase of orders below Rs.500 ₹ 56.00
  • Online Purchase of orders between Rs.500 and Rs.999 ₹ 120.00

2. Dominos India – So I had a pizza craving, later I realised I could have made Rs. 24 on the Dominos India order had I ordered via that.

3. Paytm – If you are recharging your phone, get Rs.8 back on a minimum recharge of Rs.20

Apart from this there are offers of cashback on FlipKart, Amazon India, SnapDeal, Myntra etc. also . So if you like to save moneyvia cashbacks , signup through one of the links above.

These are affiliate links, but I get something only if you save Rs.500 over some time which I guarantee you will if you use it for all your online shopping.


Feb 16

creditkarmatmlogo People who actively watch their credit scores closely in all probability are registered on CreditKarma.com and many of them would have noticed a drop in their credit scores and might be worried. I was recently browsing on Reddit and other personal finance sites like FatWallet and a large number of people had suddenly started asking why their scores had dropped and whether there had been any identity theft.

While you should still check for identity theft (and have monitoring on all the free sites, post on that soon), its more realistic that the change in the model has impacted your perceived score. To help you understand how drastic the change can be, for a friend the score dropped from the mid 700s to the 680s so the score drops can be significant.

If you are still not convinced, you can also get your annual free credit report from annualcreditreport.com, most states allow you to get one for each bureau once every year. You can ofcourse pay to get more or if you just applied for a credit product like a credit card you can claim adverse action and get one. Watch out for unauthorized hard pulls and new credit products which you did not apply for.

Or instead of all that, just log onto CreditKarma.com, it now shows you credit reports from both Transunion and Equifax. Experian inquiries can be seen on Creditsesame.com. Do note that while CreditKarma.com updates reports and scores every week, credit sesame is much more stingy in their approach and only update once a month.

CreditKarma.com notes  the following about the model change :

VantageScore 3.0 credit scores range from 300 to 850. The scores here are calculated by TransUnion and Equifax, respectively, meaning they may differ based on the contents of each bureau’s credit report.

The mobile application too was updated recently and is now nothing but a display portal onto the website’s pages. Its no longer a separate app. So did you see a drop in your credit karma scores post the migration ? Let us know in comments.