“We see suspicious activity on your VISA debit card.”
Those are words you don’t want to hear from VISA. If you carry a debit card so you don’t have to carry a wad of cash, you have cause to worry. Perhaps security protocols failed to identify fraudulent use of your card. Someone could have removed all the cash from your checking account and your check won’t be any good either. In the ultimate case, a merchant might be the one who advises you your card has been refused for lack of funds. Imagine how embarrassing a public announcement of insufficient funds could be.
Was it VISA or a Scam?
In my case I received a telephone message from someone who claimed to be a VISA agent. Because the return number did not match the phone number on my card I suspected a scam. The agent who answered my return call immediately asked for my 16-digit card number for identification purposes. After my refusal to divulge my debit card number his advice was to contact my bank. I did… immediately… in person… not by telephone.
Talking to OnPoint
My Visa debit card was issued by an OnPoint Community Credit Union. Their representative quickly determined that the telephone call was legitimate. I had half a dozen charges on my card from California, Arizona, and Kansas… places that I have not been… paying for items I did not purchase… paying utilities I do not use… VISA flagged my debit card for suspicious use… I got the phone call.
How VISA Works in a Perfect World
Google gave me a quick lesson in how the VISA card system works. A merchant who wants to accept purchases made with a VISA card arranges for a commercial account with his banker. In the case of a debit card the merchant receives immediate reimbursement from his banker. The merchant’s banker is immediately reimbursed by my bank who issued me a debit card. My banker immediately withdraws the money from my account. In a perfect world… where buyer and seller are face to face… where everyone is connected… online transactions and card verifications can occur at the speed of light.
The Real World
In the real world… buyer and seller may not be face to face… connections can be tenuous to non-existent… bad guys find ways to defeat security protocols.
My card wasn’t lost or stolen. It remained in my possession. Someone had copied the 16-digit account number and used the card number off-line, avoiding security protocols for verification. Purchases were made without the physical presence of my card. What now?
Card Not Present Purchases
In cases like mine where the card was not present at the time of purchase, the merchant’s bank is responsible for determining if the buyer is legitimate. My bank is responsible for initiating an investigation at my request.
VISA was kind enough to warn me… I was able to prevent additional withdrawals from my checking account… but I am still on the hook to pay for those fraudulent charges already made.
Three Trips to OnPoint
In all I made three trips to OnPoint to resolve the issue.
One: The first OnPoint representative recommended cancelling my card and offered me a new card. I was told my account would be reimbursed if the charges were determined to be fraudulent in an investigation by Visa. I expected to be vindicated and reimbursed. I accepted the new debit card.
Two: After two months without reimbursement, I made a second trip to OnPoint. According to a OnPoint representative I had not filed a fraud report and now it was too late for reimbursement by OnPoint.
I was stunned… I had immediately contacted OnPoint in person, had my card cancelled and destroyed. I had declared the suspicious charges as fraudulent. What else could I do?
According to the OnPoint representative my only option is to personally call each point of sale merchant and petition/beg them for reimbursement. Visa and OnPoint claim no culpability and accept no blame for wrong-doing. I thought Visa and OnPoint should have demanded verification and denied those charges. Instead they chose to pass those charges on to me… protecting the merchant.
So, dear reader, I began to think I had very little protection against fraudulent use of my debit card. I believe all agencies involved were too eager to accept fraudulent claims as legitimate. I no longer trusted the system to protect me. I decided to cancel my new debit card.
Three: On my third trip to OnPoint I canceled my new debit card and their representative filed a fraud report. She told me the investigation would take ten days to complete.
Stay tuned. We will see if my interests are protected.
The third trip was the charm. I received full reimbursement from OnPoint for all charges I declared fraudulent. That’s what zero liability is all about.