Friday, January 03, 2014

Why You Must Check Your Credit Card Statements (Part I)

Paying for purchases with a credit card, signing the merchant's copy, and being presented with my copy is a ritual I have known all of my adult life. Lately, I am being asked a question with increasing regularity, "Sir, would you like a copy of your receipt?" In my mind, there is only one correct answer. Hopefully, after reading my experiences in this post and the two which follow, you will feel the same way.
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Many smaller businesses are using an iPad equipped with Square instead of the usual cash register. Emailing a copy of the receipt seems easier for them than printing the receipt. Naturally, when we begin to introduce options for how the receipt will be produced, the question of whether or not to provide a receipt at all soon becomes one of the options. For the sales clerk, skipping the receipt is the easiest option, and something in the tone of voice communicates a message that perhaps you and I don't want to fool with that little piece of paper either.

Don't fall for it. When asked if you want a copy of your receipt, the only answer to give is "yes." That little piece of paper is your record of what you purchased and its cost. Keeping up with it and having one more piece of paper to file may seem an inconvenience. Yet, that little piece of paper will save you when credit card fraud becomes the issue.

Consider the news release in December regarding millions of credit card numbers being compromised at Target stores across America. The thought is alarming that someone could have our credit card information and make purchases as if they were us. Our only defense is a three-pronged approach:

  1. Save credit card receipts.
  2. Match the credit card receipts to the charges on the statement.
  3. Immediately dispute unauthorized charges.

Consider what seemed a safe transaction. My wife and I ordered a pizza from a local establishment and paid over the phone with a credit card. The delivery person arrived promptly with a piping-hot pizza, and presented me with the receipt. I gave the driver a cash tip, and thanked him.

Several days later, my wife checked the charges on our credit card statement versus the tickets we had accumulated. The charge for the pizza had suddenly increased by $5.00. We noticed the exact same thing for a pizza charged a couple of weeks prior.

Because we had our receipts, we knew what the charges should have been, and were confident when we called the management of that pizza parlor. We were able to provide the date and time, as well as the name of the driver, all from our receipts. As it turned out, the same driver had been involved both times. He had pocketed the cash tips, and then added additional tips to the credit card receipts before returning to the store.

Many people don't want to be bothered with keeping up with recipes. It's easier to simply pay the bill and assume it's correct. They serve as prey for dishonest people, like the one who delivered our pizza. This person probably added tips to the tickets of countless others who had paid by credit card, yet gave the tips in cash.

As a result of our call, the driver was fired, and the regional manager vowed to press charges against him. Our money was refunded, and we received coupons for free purchases.

Today, you see one example. In the next two posts, I will share other experiences with larger dollar amounts. In each case, good record keeping on our part and examination of our statements saved us from becoming victims of credit card fraud.
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