Online debit card purchase turns costly

April 14, 2009 5:43:10 PM PDT
When your bank account statement comes in the mail, you might want to look at it closely. Most of us take it for granted that our bank account statement is accurate. It usually is. But when it it's not, you better be on top of it.

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Ken Alexander these days goes through his bank statements line by line. But it wasn't always that way.

"I am not a big reader of my statement. I just glanced at it," said Alexander.

That changed after he ordered a diet pill advertised on the internet -- the Acai Berry.

After all, the ads stated that he could get a free trial, and Oprah Winfrey featured it on her show.

"The product did not work and I received another shipment, which marked return to sender, cancel my subscription" said Alexander.

But that wasn't the end of it. He was charged $59.95 for the shipment, and he continued to be charged $165 in all.

Then he started noticing other charges, charges from companies he had never even heard of-- and he was billed for foreign transaction fees even though he hadn't been overseas.

"That prompted me to look even deeper to make sure there were no other charges that were on my account," said Alexander.

But he said he found more unauthorized charges going all the way back to July.

Someone apparently had cloned his debit card. But finding the problem so late proved to be a problem.

"If you notify the bank within two days, your maximum liability is $50. If after two days it goes up to $500, and if you wait more than 60 days to notify the bank of the fraud, your liability is unlimited," said Joe Ridout from Consumer Action.

And that's exactly what happened. He called his bank, Washington Mutual, now JP Morgan-Chase, and didn't get anywhere.

7 On Your Side called chase and the bank agreed to refund him more than $400 in unauthorized charges.

But it declined to refund another thousand dollars because those charges occurred more than 60 days before he reported the problem.

"The best way to protect yourself is to check your online statement regularly so that you're not caught by surprise," said Ridout.

Joe also says use a credit card for major purchases. Consumers have more rights using credits than using a check or debit card.

We reported this back in February, but it bears repeating. Consumers we're hearing from tell us they've had problems with the free trial offers for Acai Berry. Those free offers come with a lot of strings attached, and getting out of the monthly charges can be difficult. Oprah Winfrey tells us she has not endorsed Acai Berry, despite what you might read on the Internet.

Related Links:

  • Credit Cards Rights
  • Electronic Fund Transfers Rights
  • Previous 7 On Your Side Acai Berry story

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