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Sourcing feedback from the hive mind as I look to address some unwanted charges with a store credit card.

Background: older (75+) woman who takes care of our children has had a Macys store credit card for probably 20+ years.  When reviewing her bill I noticed that she has 2 recurring charges each month for some type of insurance ($5.95 and $9.95 a month), which she has no idea what they are or recollection of authorizing them.  Doing some research it looks like Macys has a revenue sharing agreement with National Union Fire Insurance Company.

I plan on sending a letter to (1) remove these charges going forward and (2) trying to get as much money back as possible, as I have statements back from 2013 in which these charges were being stuffed on her bill.  I should note that besides being older, English is not her first language, and even though the bills are in her native language, she doesn't understand much about the info/details on the bill (just how much to pay).

In the letter I plan to:
- dispute the charges and request physical proof that the charges were authorized by the cardholder
- request they cease the charges effective the date of receiving the letter
- request the money be refunded to the account for these charges (I will include the most recent statement and the oldest statement I have from 2013 in the letter) - Macys has a 60 day policy for disputes so my expectations are low.
- ask for everything to be confirmed in writing
- casually include some language about looking forward to efficiently rectifying this issue so that I do not need to "escalate to government entities supporting consumer financial issues" (aka CFPB)

Any suggestions to make this as painless as possible and try to get as much money back as possible?  I plan on sending a letter to Macys first and if warranted escalate to CFPB.  Thanks.

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I think it's overkill. You should just call the merchant to cancel and beg for a refund, and then beg Macy's for whatever they are willing to reverse.

Forget the threats. No one is going to be persuaded that there may not be any proof of authorization when the charges have been coming through for approximately 3 years, and got paid.

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Gotta agree with Chyvan. Call the number on the back of the card, say there are unauthorized charges going back to 2013 and see what they can do. They'll reverse a bunch of them, perhaps more than 60 days worth, but I would be very surprised if they go back further than the start of the year. Report the company that made the charges to the CFPB and move on - anything else is going to be spending a whole lot of time for a fairly small amount of money.

At least, that's what I'd do. Feel free to take them to small claims court or something if you'd like, but you're probably going to incur more in legal fees than you'd get back if you were successful, and there's no guarantee that you'd be successful.

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faloun said:   Gotta agree with Chyvan. Call the number on the back of the card, say there are unauthorized charges going back to 2013 and see what they can do...
 

Agree with this approach, but tell them that you are calling for your elderly mother who does not speak English very well.  That accomplishes two things - first, the "elderly" part might evoke some sympathy, and second, you establish some authority to act as agent for "your mother."

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Seems this company specialize in these type of "add-on" charge. While I agree that it's not time well spent to go much further than getting some $ back, this is fraud targeting seniors and simply getting the $ back will not deter these scum bags.

https://www.google.com/#q=macy+card+union+fire+insurance.

Since you are going to write a letter, CCing them to the following:

- BBB, never hurts to add a # to the count.
- Your state's Attorney General. Enough complaints might get them to file a suit.
- Yelp and Complaint board.

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Thanks for the feedback. Overall I realize much of what I am describing is "overkill," but there is the principle of things here in the sketchy activities of Macys and its partners and is frankly less about the money. A Google search turns up that Macys started a "Revenue Enhancements Products Agreement" with National Union Fire Insurance Company back in 2009 (online here), so they are not innocent in the activity.

As far as some feedback:
- we have no way to call the merchant, as we never authorized any transaction with them and I don't feel like spending a bunch of time on the phone trying to deal with them considering how sketchy they already seen
- my experience in calling Macys for issues that they promise to fix is quite poor; letter writing is sometimes faster and has had more success for me
- no plans to move to small claims court

I'll send a letter this week and try to remember to post what the result is.

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Juk said:   Any suggestions to make this as painless as possible and try to get as much money back as possible?
Juk said:   Overall I realize much of what I am describing is overkill...and is frankly less about the money.
 


So much for asking for suggestions, huh?  I thought you wanted to help the old lady, but it sounds more like you're on a mission.  Just pick up the phone and tell them to cancel the charges.

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The elderly woman may have authorized the charges, but has forgotten. Before you go off the rails and start writing all sorts of letters, make sure you have a case.

Macys is not a fly-by-night company. The chances of these charges coming from nowhere are not high.

I would call Macys, and politely ask why these charges are occurring. Only if there is no record of them being authorized would I start yelling.

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What you're talking about is some sort of insurance service offered along with the credit card. Card vendors have offered insurance to cover peoples inability to pay or similar as accessory products sold along with the card. These services are voluntary. Its not a scam and they aren't stealing money from her. Its actual insurance of some sort. She probably doesn't need it but that doesn't mean they're stealing from her.
Its feasible this woman was signed up fraudulently (the Wells Fargo treatment) but just as feasible she signed up for something she didn't understand (not english speaker).
You declare Macys and the insurer "not innocent" but theres no proof of any guilt on their part.

rated:
 
Juk said:   Any suggestions to make this as painless as possible and try to get as much money back as possible?
Juk said:   Overall I realize much of what I am describing is overkill...and is frankly less about the money.

  
Those seem mutually exclusive. If it's about the money, do what has already been suggested in the thread. If it's about the principle and ending this sketchy practice, call a consumer lawyer and ask them if this is worthy of a class action.

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Yeah, Macy's is an established company so would never do anything wrong (like Wells Fargo). 

This is a common scam.  Might be a good idea to (1) dispute in writing to billing error address on bill [MUST be mailed to that address, not a phone call, fax, email etc.] with proof of delivery (enclosing a check as payment on acct with notation in letter that check is enclosed with check number noted).  IMHO, may as well request complete refund for as far back as charges are made.  (2) file complaint with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/).  (3) Contact consumer oriented lawyer--check http://www.consumeradvocates.org/find-an-attorney--assuming card holder is ready to consider a suit.

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When you call Macy's Customer Service, you may want her close. They will verify her and then she should ask them to talk to you.

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MrKlick said:   Yeah, Macy's is an established company so would never do anything wrong (like Wells Fargo). 

This is a common scam.  Might be a good idea to (1) dispute in writing to billing error address on bill [MUST be mailed to that address, not a phone call, fax, email etc.] with proof of delivery (enclosing a check as payment on acct with notation in letter that check is enclosed with check number noted).  IMHO, may as well request complete refund for as far back as charges are made.  (2) file complaint with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/).  (3) Contact consumer oriented lawyer--check http://www.consumeradvocates.org/find-an-attorney--assuming card holder is ready to consider a suit.
 

  
Macy's does not look innocent here. They are involved with this scam. Based on the link posted by OP (SEC filing done in 2009) Macy's admitted they have assigned contract of "Revenue Enhancements Products Agreement between FACS, iTrust, and National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA dated as of October 1, 2002."

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I'm going to take a stab in the dark. You mention the bill is printed in her native language and she takes care of your children. (I'm assuming she's Mexican) Older Mexicans generally like the idea of insurance for things, despite if it is a wise financial decision. I worked at Circuit City in my younger days and it was very common for older Mexicans to purchase warranties, credit insurance, etc.

I'm not saying that the insurance/Macy's is 100% clear, but lots of people purchase credit insurance, etc without fully understanding what they are doing. The fact that it was printed on her statement month after month for years without dispute until now is not helpful to her case of being oblivious to the charges. It was transparent and available for her to review, dispute, etc over and over again. She chose not to dig deeper and has implicitly accepted responsibility for the charges time and time again by not asking questions.

That said, there have been cases that have said banks have committed wrongdoing by selling these types of products. I'm guessing in those circumstances a particular required process wasn't followed or a particular disclosure wasn't provided. This could be the tip of the iceberg for one of those types of cases, or you could end up getting nothing.

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Truly an evil retailer. Have not bought anything from it in two decades because of other nasties.

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She might have a good case to claim they took advantage of her. This would not be the first time that Citibank (the underlying issuer) used deceptive practices to con people into paying for add-on services.

Citibank Must Pay $700 Million to Consumers for Illegal Credit Card Practices

A relevant snippet:

"These holders of Citi cards—or those of a Citi subsidiary that issues store-brand cards for Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s—were victims of misleading sales tactics, the CFPB alleges. In many cases, confusing text on credit card applications got consumers to sign up for extra debt-protection services they didn’t necessarily want to pay for.".

Since it is beyond the period for normal charge backs, it might be worthwhile to call the CFPB. I would be sure to raise the ESL issue. Many businesses seem far too eager to exploit whatever challenges (language, etc...) a consumer might have and exploit it. I might be a blatant laissez-faire libertarian (with a small l, not the Libertarian Party wack jobs), but I can't countenance exploitation for profit.

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They often ask about these insurance services when you activate a new card as well. In my experience with people where English is not their 1st language, their response if often 'yes' or 'ok' to question they don't really understand. She easily could have unknowingly agreed at some point.

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