Andrew’s wife got mugged, the thief rand up purchases on her credit card, and now CapitalOne has sued them for $1200 and won. How can this be? Andrew writes:
In May of 2005 my wife was mugged at one of the elevated train stations in Chicago. After calling the police and filing a police report, she started calling each credit card company to cancel each account. Except she forgot about one card, her CapitalOne card. A card hardly ever used and only had a $500.00 limit…
When we got the bill, we immediately realized our mistake, called Capital One and faxed in the police report showing she had been mugged on that day. We even got the signatures on file from the local grocery store that showed the mugger’s girlfriend signature was used, rather than my wife’s signature. The mugger even signed my wife’s last name wrong and the clerk who checked out the girl, knew the mugger (I guess they live in the same project housing complex, and threw a party with all that liquor they bought…on our dime). Anyway, any sane, logical person could see this is a pretty clear case of someone else using her card. However, Capital One refused to budge on the issue since it was out of the standard reporting time. They indicated we were responsible for all of the charges.
We tried fighting it longer and refused to pay the card. After a few months of trying to fight Capital One, the card now racked up $700.00 of late charges and over-limit fees that they said we were additionally responsible for on top of the thief’s purchases. Finally, after talking to one of their bill collectors we said we were willing to pay the $500.00 of unauthorized charges and just be done with the whole thing. Them, in true greedy corporate fashion, refused that deal and said we were responsible for the whole $1200.00. We refused, and they have been sending threatening sounding collection notices since then (as well as ruining my wife’s credit, for the sport of it).
Apparently, when we were on vacation this week, Capital One took us to small claims court, supposedly they sent us a notice but I am unaware and unable to find such court notice (It doesn’t help that Chicago’s postal system is notoriously unreliable). Since we were unaware of the court date, and we were out of town to begin with, the judge ruled in Capital One’s favor. Now we have to pay them $1200.00… or we go to jail.
Capital One: 2
Average Joe consumer: 0
I’m pissed, frustrated and don’t know what to do. Any advice?
There’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is that I believe you only have a short period of time to act. One reader says:
Your first action, do this now, is go to the courthouse that your case was heard at and file a motion to overturn the default judgment that was filed against you in your absence. You will have another court date, in front of a judge. You can explain there that you never got the summons to court. In most cases, the judge will overturn the default judgment and schedule another court date. I’ve seen this happen in CC dozens of times. Obviously it’s better if you get a lawyer to help with this, but the CC Court Clerks are also pretty helpful.
If you want to hire a consumer lawyer to help guide you through the appeals process so you don’t get tripped up on all the rules, the National Association Of Consumer Advocate site has a find an attorney function that should help you get started on your search. The good news is that once you actually get a fair day in court, your case should be a slam dunk. Under Federal law, your maximum liability for unauthorized use of your card, no matter what, is $50. The other good news is that this was a civil case, not a criminal one, so there’s no risk of you going to jail, not unless the banking industry reinstitutes debtor’s prisons.