The Chargeback: How to Get a Credit Card Refund if You’ve Been Scammed

By Rodney Gin on Jan 26, 2011 43 Comments
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Most of us have been a victim of a website scam or online fraud. Maybe the pair of super-cheap UGG boots you just bought turned out to be fakes, or the “free-trial” you signed up for has a mysterious $29.95 recurring monthly fee. Getting stuck with an unfair or fraudulent charge online is commonplace, and sooner or later almost everyone will have a dispute with a merchant and need to seek a chargeback from their credit card company. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “chargeback” occurs when a consumer receives her money back from her credit card** or bank, typically from a bad transaction (the merchant usually foots the bill plus some penalty).

While chargebacks do not guarantee a refund, oftentimes they can be your best bet when other options have failed.  Here’s how to make the refund/chargeback process as smooth as possible:

1) Contact the merchant or website

You may have already done this, but unless you’re certain you’ve been a victim of fraud, it’s usually best to try to get your money back from the merchant or website itself. Generally, if the merchant cooperates it will mean less hassle for you. Letting the merchant know that you are going to pursue a chargeback will often incent them to work out the dispute. In general, chargebacks should be thought of as a last-resort when you cannot get your money back any other way and/or have been the victim of outright fraud.

2) Gather your records

Be sure to collect all the documentation between you and the merchant–emails, receipts, packing slips, actual physical goods, etc. You will need to present this to your credit card company.

3) If it’s counterfeit or damaged, get proof

If you suspect a product is counterfeit, you may need to prove it to your credit card company. Often, the product manufacturer’s website will list authorized dealers. You can also contact manufacturers by email through their website and get an email from them verifying that the website/merchant in question is not an authorized vendor.

Alternatively, if the product has been damaged, take a photo. Your credit card company may ask to see this as evidence.

4) Check the experiences of others

If there are numerous reports of this website or merchant engaged in fraudulent activity (check on SiteJabber), save the link to share with your credit card company.

5) Call your credit card to ask for a chargeback

You can dial the customer service line on the back of your card and let them know you want to dispute a charge and would like a chargeback. It’s best to do this as soon as possible after you realize you cannot get your money back any other way. Delays can  hurt your case and ideally, you would want to request a chargeback before paying the credit card bill for that product or service. Some credit card companies have an online systems for chargebacks that allow you to upload documentation or paste URLs to help support your case.

In case you don’t have them, here are links to some major credit card customer support sites:

Don’t forget: you are not the only one who has been scammed by a website. Many sites exist only to take advantage of consumers and often do not deliver the promised goods or services to thousands of people. If you see others who have suffered a similar fate on SiteJabber or elsewhere, try asking them about their experience. Often they will be happy to share and help. And when you’re done, leave your review or complaint on SiteJabber and let us know how it went. Good luck!

 

**Note: chargebacks are generally only available to consumers who have used credit cards with strong buyer protections. When shopping online we do not recommend you use debit cards, Western Union, money orders, wire transfers, prepaid cards, and other payment types because they usually do not make it very easy for consumers to get refunds.

Image sources: 1, 2

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Comments

43 Responses to “The Chargeback: How to Get a Credit Card Refund if You’ve Been Scammed”
  1. Tran says:

    It should be noted that chargebacks reflect poorly on the business, so sometimes just the mere threat of a chargeback will get a business to deliver on their promise. And if they don’t, then do it!

    • Tom Hawthorne says:

      I purchase nearly everything online, I hate going to stores.

      In my experience, most companies are not out to get you, they are out to provide a product or service and keep their employees paid. The guy who wrote “Many sites exist only to take advantage of consumers” obviously doesn’t run a website or know anyone who does.

      Same with the “free-trial you signed up for has a mysterious $29.95 recurring monthly fee” – nearly every site that offers a free trial is going to charge you a recurring fee, that’s how it works – wouldn’t you do the same? If you don’t have any intention of actually buying the product/service and are just trying to get something for nothing, who is the real fraudster?

      If you do have a bone-fide dispute and you’ve done your part to handle the issue as a reasonable adult by calling and emailing the website – you’ll find most companies and websites are reasonable. If they aren’t, the author is correct, the threat of a chargeback usually gets them to refund your money. If not, do a chargeback, but be fair and give them a real chance – don’t expect them to answer your call at 3am or reply to an email from a different address than you used to sign up.

      • Ankit says:

        I agree with you. I offer a free trial though it costs me money for web hosting, domain name, internet, electricity even if I exclude my living expenses. I develop, maintain and sell excellent real software products (SaaS), and not health pdfs or get rich quick guides. Most customers are happy with my software, and only I know what it takes to maintain a running business. Still I feel bad when people cancel all charges up to 12 months after heavily using the software services. I give refund because it costs me less in refunding all of the 12 amounts because even a single charge-back fee for any of the 12 charges costs me more than the transaction fee of all 12 charges. And in any case, I am going to loose 12 revenues either in refund or charge-back. So, I prefer to refund instead of charge-backs. And I pay only the small $1 transaction fee from my pocket for each refund transaction other than the original amount. The payment processor keps the transaction fee with itself when a full refund is done. So, I am to loose only $12 in the worst case scenario. What hurts me most is that people think that everything online is free. Have you seen anything tangible free of cost in any shop? Has anyone offered free home, legal services, plumbing service, consultation, food etc.? Of course, there are freeware available online. So, buy only those. Why buy mine if you intent to use it, pay it and then ask for refund after 11 months. I just refunded $60 and then thought to reply here even if one one reads this.

        • Bill Babinets says:

          Ankit,
          You sure do sound butthurt…If you allow people to do that, then you’re the only one to blame. Just improve your software so you can purchase monthly keys, which will keep the ones who REALLY use it, using it. I didn’t remember reading anything about you taking advantage of the ones who pay for it and realize that it wasn’t worth the money. How many of those people do you have? Sounds like you scam people into buying a “program” which is probably just an excel spreadsheet with links, and then wonder why people want refunds. Sell quality stuff and you won’t have any refunds. I’ve had an e-commerce site for 2 years and have had 0, ZERO, NO REFUNDS. I’ve processed over $400,000 in 2 years with no charge backs or refunds. You know how? Quality products, quality customer service and no excuses. You’re the typical “My stuff is good and I’m the victim… wahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!” STFU! Quit your belly aching and get back to work, slacker!

    • Bill says:

      I used to purchase anti-virus software for my computer, Which I thought was a well known reputable company. It turned out that when I purchased the software for my computer, It sent me a link in my email to click to verify thats my email and then click on the link to instantly download to my computer. Instead it was a “Password” program that deleted all of my passwords, On Social Media Websites, Email accounts, etc and not only that but it sent a virus worm that prevented me to write emails to my friends warning them of the virus since it also sent all my friends on my email list advertisements which had a link (Also a Virus) and showing my email address as the sender. Next I received notices from my bank that my bank is in the negative (Had $800.00 in my account). After some investigation. I realized that when I used my credit card online that the virus also stole my credit card number and someone on the outside was making purchases with it. I had to file a police report to get a refund from my chase bank account. My bank then closed out my checking account and credit card and re-issued another account in my name. The police officer which I talked to told me this scam happens all the time. And the police are simply over-run with hundreds of thousands of scams from the internet that they don’t have the budget or time to investigate each one of them. They simply take a one page report and give you a incident number on a police officer business card and send you on your way!

  2. Pam S says:

    Hi all,
    I don’t seem to be the only one that fell for this rubbish. Makes me feel a bit better. I could kick myself. Just to let you know, I got a full refund, after threatening to go to my local radio station. It didn’t include the PRO payment and that’s when I saw your posts and Frank recommended going to Clickbank and I’m pleased to say, I got an IMMEDIATE refund of the PRO payment. The 1st refund had come direct from Paypal. If you are within the 60 day period I think you should be ok..Good luck everyone. I hope my success gives you all hope.

    • Tran says:

      Wow, good for you, Pam. I think with Paypal, the period that you have to dispute the charge is 45 days and with Clickbank, it’s 60 days.

  3. Char says:

    I thought I was getting $7.95 of trial for acai slim pills. Turns out I subscribed to a life time of a website that doesn’t work. At 400.00 to my charge account!!I am in Canada….No help anywhere.

  4. DAVID T. says:

    Did you do what it says in the article? This is where to report fraud in Canada: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/english/reportit_howtoreportfraud.html

  5. simon says:

    IS THIS JUST A TOTAL SCAM?.
    ME AND MY MUM GOT DRAGGED INTO THIS BOGUS WEB SITE, HAS ANYBODY ACTUALLY RECIEVED A BID FOR AND WON ITEM?

  6. Kathy says:

    I got scammed by The Reading Site (just another site by the same company, who I don’t know). Their 60 day money back guarantee is no good if they don’t answer emails. I used a debit card, so am just hoping my bank will refund the $ b/c it’s fraud.

  7. Jan says:

    Hi

    I just recently bought a laptop off Electronic Bazaar (online store in Australia). I stupidly spent most of my time researching different laptops and their prices and completely forgot to research the online store’s reputation. Now its been 5 days and they have not responded to any of my emails or answered my calls. I decided to go look at their reputation among other people that have bought items from them and there’s only 2 positive reviews out of 3 pages (around 20 reviews per page).
    Is there any way I can get my money back? I used paypal and I have a VISA Debit card linked to my Paypal account.

    • Tran says:

      Call Paypal and let them know what you’ve seen online – proof that Paypal may be allowing you to do business with a potentially fraudulent company – and ask if you can get the charge reversed. Has the money been deducted from your account, do you know?

      • Jan says:

        Yes, the money has been deducted.

        • Tran says:

          Paypal protects you if you don’t get your product, but there’s a 45-day limit. I’d give them a call and let them know what you think you’re dealing with and ask what the recourse you’d have is in case the same thing happens to you that happened to all of those other folks.

          • Jan says:

            Thanks heaps for your help. I’m definitely not going down without a fight. If all else fails I still have a friend in business law, she might be able to help but I hope it doesn’t resolve to that. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

  8. Valerie says:

    These are all good tips.
    I work at a Visa dispute dept and process chargebacks against these merchants on daily basis.

    The biggest “scam” that we deal with are these free trial merchants.. if it’s too good to be true, it probably is people! The companies do cover their butts and outline everything in their terms and conditions but they way the present themselves is very misleading.

    The article is correct in saying that your first step is to contact the merchant directly. It’s actually required under Visa dispute regulations. Generally speaking merchants will want to avoid a chargeback being done against them, but some of them can be nasty when you call so as long as you’ve made the attempt then Visa can get involved.

    Bear in mind that any refund your credit card company issues to you is considered temporary – the merchant has the right to challenge it, but in doing so they have to supply proof that you did receive your goods, did not notify them you want to cancel your membership (or whatever the details of your dispute entail).

    If you’re lost, just call your credit card company for advice and go from there. There may be options available to you that you’re not even aware of.

    • lori says:

      I have an ongoing dispute 9 months. I just found out yesterday that Chase never did a chargeback, purchase was $22409.00 Blue Diamond jewelry store got us drunk the maxed out credit card limit was $16500. I did not approve them raising my limit .I Disputed the charge within 7 days. I was given a credit from merchant for $14,659.00 Also they added a loan on my credit card for the remaining amount. Trying to stick me with $7750.00 Chase is trying charge me for the items that were returned.

  9. Reynaldo says:

    I bought two Michael kors bags from an online outlet store, I was assured by the store assistant through email that the bags are authentic. It even took them 1 month to ship the items but only to find out that the bags are fake. The online store even misdeclared the items in the receipt and since the bags are counterfeit, these were confiscated by the Customs. I paid using Citibank visa card, is there a way to get a refund? Thanks!

    • Jeremy Gin says:

      Reynoldo, you should definitely try to call your credit card company and ask for a charge-back/stop-pay on your purchase! The sooner you are able to do it, the better the chance your credit card company will be able to help you. Good luck! -Jeremy

      • rod says:

        good day, i wonder if any of you can help me. I purchased items from a merchant on ebay to the value of $8000.00. then he couldn’t wait the 21 days for the money hold policy..thereafter he recommended that we use paypal. I did so. so with us wasting time and currency inflation i found myself being $200 short because of currencies. he then made a new invoice to compensate for it and i payed it in full – we had an agreement that on my next purchase from him i would pay the outstanding amount. long story short…he gave me a tracking number that was not traceable, only said, tracking number electronically purchased and that was it..after a week i told him that i can track the parcel and he said its probably because they never scanned it..he said he will open a ticket..eventually the tracking number expired and i still had not received anything..so i opened a dispute and escalated it..they are investigating this case but i just wondered what my chances are of winning the dispute as the merchant got payed but after 35 days now i have no doubt that i wont receive the parcel i payed for…please help

  10. Adrienne says:

    I ordered a prom dress for my daughter online from dressbraw.com on 2/26/2012. The item was paid in full at that time and according to the website we expected to have the dress at the latest the week before her prom. Her prom is 3/31/12. The company has given us the run around and I have several emails back and forth with them. Today 3/27/12 they still do not have the dress ready to even be shipped and so it is obviously never going to make it to her in time for her prom. This has caused her and I a great deal of stress, as we had things purchased to go with the dress and had to go today at the last minute to find her a dress to wear since it is just a few days away. I told the company when the dress wasnt done on 3/25/12 that we would need a refund, as we would have to find her another dress. They want her to accept the dress anyway and “use it for another occassion” she will have no use for this dress, as this is her senior prom. They are now ignoring my attempts to contact them…as if they havent caused enough anguish already. I don’t know what to do, but I will not stop until they at least have the decency to refund our money, as there has been no item received at this point and I have read through all of their policies none of which claim they will keep ANY portion of the money for a cancelled order… and as a matter of fact we cancelled the order on 3/25/12 and the cancellation showed on the order, but now it does not show as a cancellation. Extremely frustrated and appreciative of any help/advice you can give me.

    Thank you!

  11. shelley says:

    My husband purchased me a Mulberry Bag from what looked like a genuine site only to find out when it we received it that it was counterfeit. Mulberry acknowledge that they are aware of the fraudulent site but won’t verify the bag is counterfeit, even though they know it is, which prevents my Bank (ANZ – Australia) from performing a chargeback… nothing we can do, hands are tied reply!! It really makes me wonder who the Visa chargeback rights are for… at the moment it seems heavily weighted in the favour of the fraudulent retailer… some justice!

  12. Robert Bowen says:

    I contributed to SpywareBlaster with javacool for some years. Without my knowledge or consent a company called Brightfort has apparently taken over SpywareBlaster, and whereas a small donation gave you autoupdate with SpywareBlaster. Brightfort renewed by two programs last month, billed me with R135.16 each for two SpywareBlaster Pro programs, without my knowledge or consent, through Plimus. I had never heard of Brightfort before which is obviously adept at fraudulent practices. I have no contract with Brightfort. Watch out for Brightfort and Plimus. Plimus has changed it’s name – beware. There is some sort of skull-duggery with these two companies. Requests for a refund led to my emails being bounced. This is criminal fraud.

    • Ankit says:

      Who cares about your R135.16? Plimus is a big corporation and can easily buy the whole town live in. And if try to charge-back on Plimus, you will be excluded from most of the e-commerce websites. And then you will cry on this website that no one is allowing you to purchase anything online!

      • Robert Bowen says:

        OK, Ankit, I now really see what you mean and know when I am beaten. Please ask Plimus and Brightfort to let up om me, and I withdraw my remarks. What else am I required to do please?

  13. Robert Bowen says:

    That’s how Plimus got big – on fraud? The bigger they are the further they fall. I get what Ankit says – that how this world is.

  14. Leake says:

    Anyone one know if I can get a refund for a payment took from my Barclays account for goods that only partly turned up and were clearly counterfeit. The company is yourspay.com they took $911 3 weeks ago, however I received the order today and the receipt enclosed states $70 and half the order is not present. Although I made the order with a website called eluxery-net (I did lots of research before placing the order and they had thousands of good feedback, the wording on the site stated 100% genuine with certificate of authenticity) yourspay took the payment and invoiced me with the tracking details for the items.
    I have tried to get on the eluxery site and all that shows is Court case details. That said, yourspay are still operating, I am guessing they are an agent like Pay-pal.
    Is there anything I can do?
    Will my bank try for a refund if I am not successful?

  15. Robert Bowen says:

    Anyone knows what “gravatar” means please” I live in Africa, y’know….
    Ankit, it’s the principle, not the money so much. But it looks if I may get a refund! Thanks.

  16. Robert Bowen says:

    Forgotten how to. 80 soon.

  17. Robert Bowen says:

    This is a fantastic site. I highly recommend SiteJabber to anyone lost in the woods of finance.

  18. Robert Bowen says:

    I have nothing further to say.

  19. Robert Bowen says:

    Pride comes before a fall…

  20. I ordered 6 pairs of glasses from this site.they sent me a tracking number for ems.ive been trying to locate my merchandise to no avail.i keep getting the tracking numbe.r cannot be located. Have i been scamed?

  21. Sam T says:

    As a licensed insurance Agent, I was targeted and solicited by mail by a company to provide me 40 relationships with charities who had donors waiting to purchase life insurance (for charitable donations). After a couple of well staged meetings in Chicago area a well as the company headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I paid them over $49,000 by Citibank Master Card (Not on line). In the contract, they had written that the company needed at least 18 months to fulfill their part of the agreement. Hence thwarting me and not allowing me to ask to rescind or refund before at least 18 months.

    It is over 18 months now and the merchant company have not provided me a single relationship and thus have not performed or fulfilled their part.

    Now I am seeking to get a chargeback or a refund.
    The company gives no response and Citibank says its been too long.

    1. I’d like to know what I should do to get a chargeback or a refund.?
    2. Who could I contact? (I do not want to hire an attorney and throw more good money after bad)
    3. I’d like to know which organization governs or supervises credit card companies such as MasterCard?
    4. I’d like to know which organization governs or supervises credit card issuing banks?
    5. Is it not a responsibility of the credit card company to verify whether the merchant or vendor is genuine and not a scam?
    6. Where can I find the regulation which may require the credit card company or the issuing bank to do due diligence on the merchant before they allow them to set up a scam.

    • Patricia says:

      If you have a written contract Take them to court for breach of contract

    • Post made by “Rolex” is exactly what I am interested in knowing. Especially the part of diligence on the credit card company allowing scams to be processed through their system.
      If I promised you the most fantastic thing in the world, say a free trip to the moon, took your money through VISA and advertised my moon trip using the VISA logo, wouldn’t VISA have some financial liability to have allowed this scam to be perpetuated?
      Why would a world class credit card company even want a hint of impropriety using their good name for known illegal (not to mention unethical) scams with their cards. Would you ?
      I posed this question with my local bank and was given a canned answer with no substance or concern. It seemed as if they have so much profit from credit cards that anything at the consumer level is of no consequence to them.

  22. Mai Nidz says:

    Darren Paladino, were you successful in your credit or charge-back?

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