ING Direct Customer Caught In Debit Card Fraud Gray Zone

Most cases of ID theft and credit/debit card fraud involve the thief going whole-hog on the victim’s account, spending as much as they can in a very short period of time. But what happens when that fraudulent activity isn’t enough to set off alarm bells at the bank?

This is exactly what happened to Shelby and her fiance, who share an ING Direct checking account.

Back in September, Shelby noticed a handful of small purchases, all for the same amount, made at their local CVS. It was odd, but the amounts were small and it was a CVS in their area so she assumed her fiance had made the purchases.

Then she later saw these same charges being made again at both CVS and a nearby Walgreens, a store that neither of them had been to in more than a month.

“That’s when I realized someone had been making fraudulent charges to our account with my fiance’s card number,” Shelby tells Consumerist.

Between the two stores, there were five charges of $11.81 each. Looking into the charges, they were told that each transaction had been made using the PIN for that particular card. Since her fiance had never lost his card, it seemed evident to the couple that someone had skimmed the card number and PIN and was using it to chisel away, making repeated, small purchases for the same amount.

“We filed a dispute online,” says Shelby, “but ING closed it by 9/30, claiming the charges were authorized, even though we submitted signed affidavits of the fraud.”

A second dispute and affidavit were closed on Oct. 10, with the following explanation:

Your card was physically swiped and you entered your PIN correctly to authorize a cash-back PIN-based purchase. In addition, account history shows that you have done business with this merchant multiple times other than these charges.

We’ve determined the transaction was authorized and have closed your dispute. You have the right to request copies of any documentation used by ING DIRECT in making this decision. If you still feel that these charges are fraud, you can resubmit your disputes online.

The appeals stretched into mid-November, when an e-mail from ING stated again that their claims regarding the five charges for $11.81 were not covered by his Debit Card agreement, and that this would be the final response on the matter.

“ING is treating us like liars,” Shelby told Consumerist at the time. “I am aware it is a federal offense to file a false affidavit. I am glad the money stolen wasn’t a large amount, but it upsets me a great deal that they are ignoring us. I have been a victim of fraud at another bank, and when they were notified of it, they immediately cancelled the card and refunded the money stolen once I submitted the affidavit. ING didn’t even offer to cancel my fiance’s card. The representatives don’t seem to care at all that we were the victims of a crime.”

We contacted ING on the couple’s behalf, asking the bank to take one last look at the case, because the following things seemed, at least to us, that they were not trying to scam the bank for a refund:
1. The repeated purchases, all within a brief period of time, all at the same two stores, all for the same exact amount.
2. The fact that the couple were not disputing any other charges made at CVS or Walgreens.
3. Two months is an awfully long time for a couple to spend filing fraud claims, signing affidavits and answering questions, just to get back $59.05.

After a couple weeks, we finally heard back from ING Direct with some good news.

“We took care of this customer’s concern by crediting his account as a goodwill gesture,” a rep for the bank tells Consumerist. Shelby confirms that the money has been refunded.

A source who knows a thing or two about fraud claims explains that this is one of those tough situations for banks, as there are plenty of odd things about the charges but it also does not have many of the red flags — huge purchases, online orders, charges made in far-flung locations — that usually trigger fraud alerts for a bank.

In such cases, the best the customer can do is to continue to plead the logic of their case and hope that the bank ultimately agrees. He advises the customer should also try dealing with the retailers at which the fraudulent purchases were made, as they might discover a larger pattern to the purchases.