BY ANDY KAY and STEVE MCFARLAND
Andy Kay is the Founder of top private investigations company Kay & Associates Investigations based out of Los Angeles, California.
Steve McFarland is the president of the Board of Directors for the BBB(Better Business Bureau).
Fraudulent charges are not always done by individuals, sometimes they are committed by companies or business owners. Here are some things to look out for and some tips to avoid being a victim.
If it is a serious case of fraud, you really have to call a private investigator, because as an individual you cannot get the same information that we can. Having a license gets you a lot more. Also, the police are inundated with major crimes such as murder’s, so worrying about your $3000 that was stolen is not on their priority list.
~ Andy Kay
Q: What is an example of the most common type of fraudulent charges you see in your line of work?
Andy Kay: The primary heavy loss in credit card scams is where an employee will use a company credit card somewhere where an electronic card reader or criminal at a business will steal the cc information when the card is used at a legitimate business. These scammers will get the cc info and will already have businesses that appear credible and known— they will mirror companies that businesses would use such as courier businesses, Yelp, google…they will trail the name of the company so it’s not exactly the same at the end. An example would be a charge from Google that looks like this. Can you tell the difference in what makes this not actually a charge from Google?
Steve McFarland: With everyone confined to their homes during the pandemic, there’s been a surge in online purchasing. BBB sees many types of fraudulent charges, for example: a) excess shipping and handling fees, b) unnecessary warranty fees to cover low-priced products purchased online, c) charges on your credit card for so-called “free trial offers” for health and beauty products, and d) charges hidden in the fine print on contracts for satellite and communication carriers and home security companies.
Q: How can I spot fraudulent charges?
AK: Make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting when you make purchases. Watch for charges that are higher than what you believe they would be, often unscrupulous businesses will charge you shipping and handling fees that are excessive or that you did not know about and an array of add-ons. Constantly check your card statements to make sure that the amounts charged are exactly what you expect them to be. Many of these con artists count on the fact that people do not check their credit card statements or debit card statements.
If it is a serious case of fraud, you really have to call a private investigator, because as an individual you cannot get the same information that we can. Having a license get you a lot more. Also, the police are inundated with major crimes such as murder’s, so worrying about your $3000 that was stolen is not on their priority list.
Q: How can I report fraudulent charges?
SM: Consumers can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau by visiting www.bbb.org. In addition, consumers are encouraged to go to www.ScamTracker.org to report their experience to the public and law enforcement. Victims may also want to file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov or with their local district attorney’s office.
AK: Begin with your bank or the credit card company if it is separate from a bank. Then go on to local law-enforcement and possibly the FBI or the FTC.
Q: What can I do to prosecute someone who made fraudulent charges on my behalf?
AK: You may be able to report them to either the federal Bureau of investigation the federal trade commission or local police or sheriffs. Unfortunately, all of these agencies are inundated with these types of fraud and getting them to investigate your specific case may be difficult. Many of our clients hire us to investigate these cases so that we are able to establish more evidence that may make it more feasible for law-enforcement to get involved in prosecuting these cases.
Q: How can I protect myself from fraudulent charges?
AK: One word, diligence pay close attention to what you expect to pay and make sure all your statements reflect it look at your statements online at least once a week. Dispute any charges you find that are not exactly what you expected immediately. Report unscrupulous businesses on the Better Business Bureau pages and on any review pages that you get. help others And check these review pages before you do business with online businesses.
SM: Carefully investigate the business before providing a credit card or bank account number. Visit www.bbb.org and other sites to compare sellers and evaluate reviews. Inspect the fine print and ask questions until all terms and charges are clear. Regularly examine your credit card and bank statements to identify any unauthorized charges. Contact your credit card carrier or bank immediately to report any unidentified charges. Shred all documents that may include personal information. Periodically examine your credit report for errors.