Written by 05:28 Business

Help! A Gas Station Charged Me $1,500 and My Bank Won’t Believe It’s Fraud.

Last October, my extended family spent a week in Todos Santos, in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, for a wedding. All went well, but when I got back, I noticed an unusual charge on my credit card: $1,500.49, made on the day we flew home to the United States from San José del Cabo. The merchant appeared to be a restaurant in Mexico City. I recalled that when we went to fill up the rental car at a Chevron station near the airport, the attendant placed the card in a hand-held machine and then told me it had been rejected, requiring me to use a second card. Nothing else unusual happened that day, and reviews on Google for this gas station contain eerily similar accusations of fraudulent charges from other tourists. I disputed the charge, but Wells Fargo repeatedly denied my claim, even when I asked the Better Business Bureau to intercede. Can you help? Nate, Wayland, Mass.

We cannot be sure the fraud occurred at the gas station, but if so, it’s a clever scam. The worker presumably slipped your card into a bogus card reader and charged you $1,500 just as you were rushing to return your rental car and catch a flight out of the country, knowing you were unlikely to report the crime to Mexican authorities. It’s a good reminder for travelers that we need to be ever vigilant on vacation, even when we’re cranky or tired or stressed or otherwise out of our element.

It’s also a good excuse to consider how dependent we have become on our credit card issuers to save the day in such situations. As you found out, that doesn’t always happen.

Humor me while I consider the situation from the perspective of a bank like Wells Fargo. What might seem like obvious fraud when it happens to us is not necessarily a crystal clear crime to a fraud claims team tasked with sifting out their clients who are honest vacationers from others who may themselves be fraudsters.

Since I trust you are in the former camp, I reached out to Wells Fargo and soon afterward, a representative got in touch with you by phone and agreed to refund the charge, plus interest. A week later, you received a check for $1,609.96.

“We take customer concerns seriously and seriously investigate all customer claims,” wrote Jennifer Landan, a spokeswoman for the company, in an email statement to me. “We worked directly with our customer on this matter, and it is resolved.”


Last modified: 9 June 2024