Bank won't stop thief from charging San Francisco man's credit card

Michael Finney Image
Saturday, June 30, 2018
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What if you found out somebody out there was using your credit card?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- What if you found out somebody out there was using your credit card? It's a terrible feeling, but thankfully your bank can stop the fraudulent charges and should refund your money.

Except for one Bay Area victim, that didn't happen.

"It was very frustrating to the point of red in the face frustrating,'' San Francisco resident Mark Crane said.

His trouble began when someone began using his credit card in April. He noticed an $18 dollar charge at a Burger King, $10 at 7-Eleven, another $10 at a Chevron Station, about $30 at a Walgreens.

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"I know I've never been to that Chevron, I don't shop at 7-Eleven,'' Crane said. "I don't spend that much at Walgreens. And I haven't had any fast food in years, certainly not at Burger King."

Then the kicker? The thief had rather audaciously used Crane's credit card to sign up for a Google Play music subscription - that's unlimited music from the Google library for $9.99 per month.

"So I guess I was financing some guy's musical entertainment,'' Crane said.

He contacted his credit card company, Synchrony Bank, which immediately refunded him for the four one-time charges. It also changed his account number, and Crane thought everything was fixed.

It wasn't.

"Google Music didn't shut off. It just kept going."

Crane noticed that Google music was still charging him $9.99 every month - even with his new card number. So he called Google to cancel the subscription. To his amazement, Google would not do it.

"They said we can't turn it off because your name is not associated with the account,'' Crane recalls. "I said, but it's my credit card! And I don't want these guys using it."

Crane couldn't believe he had to keep paying for the bad guys to have their musical entertainment. Google said only the customer can cancel the account, and that was not Crane. It wouldn't tell him whose name was on the account.

"They said they didn't want to promote vigilantism,'' Crane said.

Google said his credit card company would have to call to report it as a fraud. So, OK, simple enough. Crane called Synchrony Bank.

"I said, 'Can you please call Google and tell them to cancel that account?' '' Crane said.

Synchrony Bank referred him to its fraud department, which said it would take 90 days to investigate. What's worse? The bank ruled months later that it was Crane himself who signed up for Google Play, not the fraudster.

"I couldn't believe it,'' Crane said. "They said I was the one who was benefiting from the membership. Of course I had no benefit. I never had Google music."

He filed a new fraud claim, saying even Google listed a different person as the customer.

"It didn't make any sense why would I call to cancel it if it was really me on the account?"

However, the fraud department denied the claim again saying Crane must be the customer; how else would Google have his new account number?

So now Google wouldn't let him cancel since he was NOT the customer, and his bank would not let him cancel saying he WAS the customer, and Crane was stuck paying for some crook's music.

"It was beyond frustrating, to the point of pulling my hair out which is all gone now,'' said Crane, who is nearly bald and totally exasperated.

This went on for a whole year until he contacted 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney. Our team contacted Synchrony Bank, pointing out that Google confirmed Crane was not the customer. After that, Synchrony did cut off the fraudster's charges and refunded Crane's money.

The bank did not explain its denial of his claim, saying only:

"We take cardholder satisfaction very seriously, and do our best to thoroughly investigate complaints before issuing a resolution."

"I was very relieved, very happy,'' Crane said. "Thank you Michael Finney."

So how did Google Play get Crane's new account number? The bank said the music membership automatically rolled over to the new card number because it was a "recurring charge." The automatic rollover policy eluded the fraud investigators, which is why they kept denying his claim.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Written and produced by Renee Koury