Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crime Victims Don't Have to Pay Credit Charges

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crime Victims Don't Have to Pay Credit Charges

Article excerpt

Q. We arrived in Madrid, Spain, for a tour. Rather than give in to jet lag, we and our two traveling companions decided to ride the Metro to the museum.

The two men were pickpocketed on the Metro. We chased one guy down the street but lost him. We talked to two policemen outside the Metro, then immediately walked back to the hotel and canceled the two credit cards; this was within the hour.

The thieves were very organized. They made three charges to our GM MasterCard, which come to just under $2,000.

GM wants us to pay. They have granted us two temporary reprieves - while they "investigate."

One charge they want us to pay because:

The charge had a valid card imprint. (Of course it does, that's what was stolen!)

The charge was signed. (Anyone can see the signature is forgery).

The clincher - the card was not canceled at time of purchase.

We explained that the card was stolen and we sent them a copy of the police report.

This has been going on since March, and we are tired of it.

Are we talking to tree stumps out there in la la land, or are we nuts?

Rog and Alice F. - St. Charles -

A. Good news. The GM card folks tell me they're going to cancel the fraudulent charges.

Had they said differently, we should have told GM to blow it out its tail pipe. Legally, you owe them $50 and that's all.

Federal law limits your liability to $50 when a credit card is stolen.

That limit holds no matter how late you report the theft, although it's best for everybody if you report it quickly.

It doesn't matter if the rip-off happened on the Madrid Metro or Metro Link.

That's according to Ruth Susswein of Bankcard Holders of America, a consumer advocacy group in Washington.

There's only one exception to that consumer-friendly rule. If you refuse to cooperate with the credit card company's investigation, they can zap you with the entire charge.

It's very rare these days to hear of a credit card company dunning a customer over a stolen card. This mess boiled down to confusion over a date.

One of the credit card sales slips was dated before the card was stolen, says GM. So it took a while to convince them the date was in error.

Susswein's solution to such mix-ups involves letter writing.

First, write the credit card company, explaining what happened and telling them you won't pay. Include copies of police reports and any other proof. Expect some bureaucratic delay.

If the company keeps insisting on payment, write the federal regulators who supervise the credit card banks.

She recommends the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Consumer Assistance, 250 E Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20219.

You can also call the consumer affairs office at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis at 314-444-8443.

Q. I would like to know all the details about a Medicaid trust.

My husband and I are 72 and 73 years of age. …

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