For one couple, it started out as an 11-minute Yellow Cab ride for 1.1 miles to a birthday dinner in San Francisco. But then that ride turned into a $10,000 overcharge nightmare, according to an article I read in the January 15, 2022 San Francisco Chronicle. What happened is that the wife Margarita Bekker paid with her credit card using the driver’s PayPal terminal, which he used instead of the Yellow Cab’s payment system to get a better rate on payment fees. Then, after adding a 25% tip to the $7.90 on the meter, Bekker paid what she thought was a total of $9.87, after which the driver said he would send her a receipt, though he never did.
However, when she saw her credit card bill a few days later, the charge had turned into $9875.00, an obvious mistake, or so she thought. But when she called the Bank of America, which issued her credit card to report a fraud, the bank said it wasn’t fraud since she had used her credit card in the transaction, so she should file a billing dispute. Yet after she filed the dispute, the bank determined the amount was calculated correctly, and even though she called the bank many times, often crying about how the charge wiped out her savings, the bank was firm in affirming the transaction. In fact, the bank said that it was a legitimate transaction, and in support, the bank said it had a receipt signed by her, though the signature didn’t match the signature on her driver’s license.
Even her investigation, in which she spent hours on the phone, didn’t work at first, though she turned up a Yellow Cab record of her original $7.90 ride. She also gained support from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees local taxis and agreed it was definitely an overcharge. The SFMTA even contacted the driver. But initially the driver refused to refund the money and the bank continued to support the driver, since he told them it was the correct charge and provided a copy of the signed receipt for the transaction. Thus, she was stuck with the excessive overcharge for about three months, until the media picked up her story, and the bank decided not to charge her the money after all.
As I read this story, I thought about how easy it might be for anyone to become a victim of an overcharge scam by a con artist like this cab driver, if they aren’t aware of what they are being charged in the first place and don’t follow-up with persistence should they discover any unusual charge on their credit card.
Thus, if you are paying for something with a credit or debit card, there are a few things you can do to make sure you aren’t being overcharged by mistake or by a scammer seeking to take advantage of you.
1) Use a credit card with a limited balance on the card or use a debit card linked to a bank account with a small balance. And don’t set up overdraft protection. This way, any mistake or scam, will be limited to a relatively small amount.
2) Make sure you get a receipt from the pay platform for your payment, or if the terminal doesn’t provide a receipt, get a signed receipt from the service provider using that platform.
3) Closely monitor your credit card balance online, rather than waiting for a monthly statement, so you can quickly pick up any overcharges due to a mistake or fraud.
4) If you physically give someone your credit card rather than paying through a terminal which might have been tampered with, such as at a gas station pump, file it as a billing dispute, not as fraud. That’s because you have given the card to someone and claiming fraud at the outset will slow down the process, since the card issuer will deem the transaction isn’t fraud.
5) Should the person who overcharged you use a phony receipt to claim you owe the money you don’t, you can claim fraud if you can show this was a doctored receipt.
6) If you can’t quickly get the overcharge reversed by the credit card company or bank which issued the card, contact the company the person works with and any supervising agencies to report what happened and gain their support.
7) If the overcharge is sufficiently large, say $1000 or more, contact the police and report this as a fraud. If the police get a series of reports about a specific overcharge scam, they may act to go after the fraudster. Possibly contact your local media, and they might do a story on what happened to you, which may contribute to getting the overcharge reversed, as well as lead to a crackdown on that particular fraudster.
* * * * * * * * * *
The author is internationally published author and film producer, Gini Graham Scott, PhD, who has published over 200 books, 50 for traditional publishers and 150 for her own company Changemakers Publishing, specializing in books on self-help, popular business, and social issues. She is the author of The Big Con: Scams Targeting Writers, the Victims, and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim and I Was Scammed about all types of scams and how to avoid them. She has written and executive produced 18 feature films and documentaries, featured on the www.changemakersproductionsfilms.com website. An inspiration for this article is that Changemakers Productions is now raising money for its first horror film Dark Cabin, which features 6 friends on a vacation up against Viking ghosts. It’s filming in the New York area in February 2022, and other horror films are planned. She also writes books and scripts for clients. Her website for writing is at www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.
For more information or to set up an interview, contact:
Executive Assistant to Gini Graham Scott
Changemakers Publishing and Writing
Lafayette, CA 94549 . (925) 385–0608