Having Your Credit Card Stolen = Accidentally Free MP3 Downloads From Amazon?

Amazon.com apparently has a glitch whereby if you have 1-click ordering set up to buy MP3 downloads, and you forget that you canceled your credit card because it had been stolen by a random French person, you’ll end up with a bunch of “free music.” And, if you’re an honest person like Jeff Somogyi, when you try to contact Amazon to pay for the music, they’ll chuckle at you.

From The Somogyi Perspective:

However, a week ago, I decided to purchase an MP3 album from Amazon’s MP3 store. (Rage Against the Machine’s “Evil Empire”, if you MUST know.) I’d totally forgotten about 2 things, by this point:

1 – That my old, canceled card was linked to my Amazon account.

2 – That I’d turned on “1-Click” purchasing for MP3 albums.

So, I clicked purchase and the album immediately started downloading. It was at this point that I had the thought cross my mind: “Did I update my credit card info?”

Well, no, I didn’t. Before the album finished downloading, I was trying to change the method of payment. Turns out, for a digital purchase, you can’t do such a thing. So, I waited and wondered was was going to come of this…

An angry letter from Jeff Bezos, perhaps?

Well, I DID receive a letter – via e-mail – telling me that they could not successfully charge my card, and that my purchases would be canceled.

Now, I’d already downloaded the album. So, I opened up my music folder, and – even though I knew there was no way they could do this – expected the music to be missing… or at least unable to play. I was wrong on both accounts. I still had the music, and it still played.

Well, it was never my intent to dupe the giant corporation, nor steal from them, so I wanted to put this right. I’d bought the album – I wanted to pay for it.

So I went to Amazon and found their “contact us” page and used their nifty “Call me back” feature. In a couple of seconds my phone rang. The hiss of static on the line let me know that my case was important enough for someone in India to make a long-distance call to set things right.

I explained the situation, and I was met with silence. After a pause, I resumed my case, pleading, “I didn’t MEAN to steal. I just want to pay for what I bought.”

Another moment of stunned silence followed. Right now, I could only imagine what the operator on the other end of the line was thinking. (Probably the same thing a cop thinks when a criminal turns himself in… that being, “WHY?!”… Well, either that, or he was scrolling through all of the computer-based answers to find the correct response to “Fraudulent purchasers is calling to make good on payment – which is probably buried way deep in the page, as it’s not often used.)

Finally, the operator chuckles a bit and says, “Well, thank you for your honesty… ummm… but digital download transactions are charged at the point of purchase. We CAN’T charge you again. What you can do, is re-purchase the album, if you REALLY want to be charged for the purchase.”

Well, that’s very kind of them. Don’t you think?

Amazon Doesn’t Want My Money [The Somogyi Perspective] (Thanks, James!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. parad0x360 says:

    i consider myself fairly honest but when it comes to stores if they charge me less then they should or i leave without noticing they missed something I wont go back in on account of having just about every store known to man screw me at one point or another.

    i love amazon too, so much so that i paid for amazon prime, so if this were to ever happen to me…well i win i guess.

    Great guy for calling them up, i applaud you saintly level of honesty.

  2. Geekybiker says:

    Nice to know there are still a few honest people out there.

  3. ViperBorg says:

    I just got that email today. Funny thing is that my card is current, but they didn’t take the money. Eh, I’ll give it a couple of days and see if they do.

  4. FreeMarketGravy says:

    I had a recent similar experience with a new debit card. I bought a Zeppelin LP with my old debit card by accident and when I tried to contact Amazon, they told me to contact the seller. I contacted the seller and they said they received payment that night and shipped it out the next day. I checked my account several times since and I have no idea where he got the payment from, but it wasn’t from my account.

    I think Amazon likes to buy their customers things from time to time.

  5. That’s sort of like what happened at Wendy’s the other day to me which made no sense at all….
    I ordered a couple of the 5 piece chickens, large fries, and a drink… I thought I heard 6.XX but when I got up to the window, the person said the total and not listening to the first number, I gave them my debit card and paid… I then got my very light bag and looked at the receipt and they only gave me fries and only charged for the fries. So I told the person that I had also ordered chicken nuggets and a drink and they got confused so they got the manager. I told what I ordered to the manager and they got it and then I gave them my debit card to charge it again and they refused! They would not let me pay for it. I kept on insisting that I pay and they said that the computer would not allow them to. I personally thought that made no sense because they could just reorder the stuff that was missing and charge me, but noooo…

  6. MayorBee says:

    What will most likely happen is he’ll get a letter in the mail in a few days from the credit card issuer letting him know that they’ve reopened his account for him.

  7. amyschiff says:

    To me, it seems like canceling your credit card is a lot of work just to get some free downloads so I’m not sure how many dishonest people would just jump on board and do it.

    I wonder if Amazon has any alert in place for times when multiple orders are unable to be charged to your card within a short time frame.

  8. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    I’d just pay and re-download the album, as a token of my appreciation for Amazon’s DRM-free tracks.

  9. amyschiff says:

    @triscuitbiscuit: they may have just wanted to avoid the cost of an additional debit transaction for food that doesn’t cost much to prepare

  10. Jabberkaty says:

    Once I forgot to pay for a coffee coolata at Dunkins. Just a weird combination of waiting for my drink, big line, and harried cashier.

    I ran back in, apologized, and paid. SOmeone in line said I should get it for free – I still paid. No sense in getting an overworked cashier in trouble cause I’ve got no attention span. :)

  11. Traveshamockery says:

    I had virtually the same thing happen last Christmas when I bought a Harmony remote for my dad. My CC had been stolen and closed, and Amazon went ahead and shipped the Harmony remote against my old, closed card.

    I called to tell them to use my new card, and they refused, saying they couldn’t change the billing information now that it was shipped.

    Somehow the bill wound up on my new card…don’t know how though.

  12. ThomFabian says:

    When I was getting married we purchased our wedding rings at a Jewelry store we’d never shopped at before about 3 months in advance. We had the rings, and the charge didn’t show up on my card before the wedding. Well once we got back I noticed they still hadn’t charged us and I called them to remind them. They said they’d look into it. 3 months later I had still not been charged, and we were looking to close the account we had used, so I wanted to make one last good faith attempt to pay them for it. I called and asked again and the person told me once again they’d look into it. I notified them we were closing the account within the month and left my phone number. To this day (8 years later) we’ve never paid for those rings.

  13. Buran says:

    That was cool of them and I think they appreciated your honesty. I’ve only had one problem with their customer service and that’s from their assuming the “default to these shipping and payment options in the future” checkbox is always there — they kept telling me where to check it but it’s just NOT THERE — grr. Anyone know why that would disappear?

    The reason your music still played was that MP3 is not DRMed, period, and there is no way to disable MP3 files. That’s why MP3 is in such demand — plays on nearly anything, and is not restricted in any way so you can’t have a Microsoft PlaysForSure (what a nice name for something that doesn’t play on their own player!) or Google Video pulled on you.

  14. What this man did is no different then illegally downloading music files from a P2P network, which is no different then walking into a cd store and filling your pockets with cd’s and dvd’s. I cry thief.

  15. smythe says:


    Was your old and new crdit card from the same company? I recently had my citi card “upgraded” to a card with less benefits but continued to use my old card and everything was just put on the new card. The only way I found out about the card change was logging in online to check my balance.

  16. ZekeSulastin says:

    @PrestonBerryworth: Uhhhh … no.

  17. smythe says:

    @PrestonBerryworth: You are a tool, now slap your face

  18. oopl says:

    @ThomFabian: I want to know the name of that jewelry store! haha

  19. @parad0x360: I’m actually ok with this, if you never go back into a store you have left to complain they made a mistake in their own favor. Otherwise you’re part of the problem.
    @PrestonBerryworth: Actually, that issue was taken care of when he called to rectify the situation. After the point of which he had made a good faith effort, that was refused, Amazon gifted the mp3 album to him, but informed him they would happily accecpt the gift of his money too.

  20. jeff303 says:

    @amyschiff: No, it’s doubtful they’re making less than 10 cents on the chicken nuggets. [moneycentral.msn.com]

  21. samurailynn says:

    @InfiniTrent: If your new debit card was with the same bank as the old credit card, the bank probably just transferred the charge to the new card when they saw it go through. I have seen this happen with US Bank and Bank of America before. It kind of defeats the purpose of canceling the card if it is lost or stolen, but that’s how they do it.

  22. floridastylee says:

    getting your skymiles credit card stolen means free freq. flyer miles while amex refunds the stolen $$!

  23. thalia says:

    I love Amazon. They’re always to awesome. Once I bought a PetMate water fountain and they accidentally sent me the normal model instead of the deluxe model (both cost the same amount, $25, but the deluxe has a flow control). I called them about it and they immidiately apologized and said they could either replace it after I sent it back (after I’d already set it up and my kitties were enjoying it) or they’d just tack a $10 gift certificate code onto my account. Whoa. Well I buy from them all the time, so hells yes I took the ten dollars. Five minutes later, there it was in my account. Nice. Thanks again Amazon :P

  24. Donathius says:

    I bought a book off Amazon once and set it for pickup at a local Borders. I picked up the book and apparently they didn’t do something right and I was never charged for it. I called the Borders and talked to the manager. His basic response was “This was our fault, we didn’t process the transaction correctly, the book is yours to keep.” I thought that was pretty cool of him. I was even willing to come in and pay for it but instead they just let me have the book for free (I think it was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).

  25. subodhgupta says:

    Trust me, in a few days, the charge will come up on your new card.

  26. jimconsumer says:

    @triscuitbiscuit: I told what I ordered to the manager and they got it and then I gave them my debit card to charge it again and they refused!

    That’s not incompetence. It’s good customer service. “We blew it. We’re sorry. Here, your meal is on us.”

  27. jimconsumer says:

    @PrestonBerryworth: no different then walking into a cd store and filling your pockets with cd’s and dvd’s

    No kidding. Soon, he’s going to be selling crack to schoolchildren.

  28. blackmage439 says:

    This sounds like an absolute failure on the part of Amazon’s Web “masters”. It seems the 1-click ordering process for downloads does not properly check for a successful charge before beginning the download process.

    Not only do they have an issue with people possibly taking advantage of this, what happens when the RIAA catches wind of this mishap? Will they try to sue both the user AND Amazon into oblivion for the lost profits of the RIAA execu… err I mean artists?

  29. @blackmage439: I’m sure Amazon still has to give RIAAh its due.

  30. sprocket79 says:

    Interesting. I bought a $40 off Amazon recently and UPS mis-delivered it. When I called Amazon, I got a refund immediately. A week later UPS shows up with my missing package. Being the honest person I am, I called Amazon and asked to be charged – and they did charge me. So I guess it must be something weird with their music store because they had no problem charging me again.

  31. tedyc03 says:

    iTunes just keeps track and next time you go to purchase something they make you pay them then. Maybe Amazon will do that? Dunno. If they don’t, then that’s cool. Free music.

  32. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    Being honest never goes out of style. Kudos for your integrity. Last week I went to get gas and cash in some lottery tickets and ended up with $20 more than I should have. Turns out the teller applied the $20 I won towards my gas purchase AND then gave me a $20 bill. Once I had figured out why I had more $ than I should have, I went back and explained. I know I would have felt awful if MY till had been short $20 for something like that, and it was simply the right thing to do.

  33. sburnap42 says:

    iTunes doesn’t seem to charge immediately. They seem to wait some set period to “bundle” things into one payment, probably because the fees are lower. If you buy a bunch of individual tracks over a few hour or even day period, you’ll find them bundled on your credit card bill.

  34. Jmatthew says:

    “This sounds like an absolute failure on the part of Amazon’s Web “masters”. It seems the 1-click ordering process for downloads does not properly check for a successful charge before beginning the download process.”

    That’s pretty normal for micro-payments. Generally debit transactions are a flat rate, and I’m sure Amazon gets a good deal, but why run a card 12 times at .05 per pop when you can run it once? When I buy a few dozen songs I don’t get a few dozen charges on my card for .89, I get one big charge for the total. Makes perfect sense.

  35. redheadedstepchild says:

    You know, when I worked for the fruit related electronics company, we’d often get calls for mispicks. An independent contractor ran some warehouses, and would occasionally send out the wrong item.

    Specifically the U2 iPod instead of a mouse. Lots of people would call, we’d set up return shipping and such.

    HOWEVER – one customer called and tried to get me to sell her the iPod for a substantially reduced price. She felt guilty for keeping it, but not guilty enough to pay full price or send it back. She wanted to pay $100. It was an awkward conversation.

  36. camille_javal says:

    I also had this kind of experience recently – I was recharging the card I have to use for laundry (university apartment building), and the first card I tried to use didn’t work, so I used a second. A few days later I checked both cards, and both had been charged. Well, really, one had been charged, and one was pending authorization, which I should have considered, but I called the company and explained what happened. The woman told me they’d send me a card with a credit, but didn’t even ask any of my information aside from my address, so I was actually really skeptical.

    In fact, that was a Friday, and by Monday I received a new card. I also discovered that the charge had dropped from the one card without clearing. I called them and apologized and asked what I should do – should I send it back? The woman had to talk to her supervisor and call me back; she did actually call me back, a couple hours later, to say that the supervisor said don’t worry about it, take it as a goodwill gesture.

    I especially appreciate it as this isn’t a company who is going to lose my business – I don’t really have any option, as the machines in my building only take these cards. But they were very fast and very polite. So, um, if you’re the sort of person who would be contracting with Service Directions, good group in my experience.

  37. kuebby says:

    Just further proof that Amazon customer service is the best.

    I knew there was a reason I buy so much from Amazon, it’s because they are one company I never have to worry about screwing me.

  38. Maurs says:

    Yeah, this exact same thing happened to me. The card attached to Amazon 1-click had expired a while ago. I tried to order an album, and it told me that it couldn’t process the order, so I tried again with the correct card. However, when I was looking at my order status page, I saw that the album I had bought through them a week ago on the expired card had obviously not been processed correctly, but Amazon still had let me download it immediately. I guess their 1-click system is set up with the assumption that it might take time for your card to process and just sends you a download link immediately.

  39. spinachdip says:

    @kuebby: Not to mention they have the best mp3 store, bar none. It’s DRM-free and the iTunes integration is flawless (well, other than saving duplicate copies of albums, but that’s a minor quibble).

    And yeah, I’ve done quite a lot of business with Amazon over the past year and they have been nothing short of top notch.

  40. Foleymann says:

    I purchased a “Replay TV” thru Amazon many years ago ( just before Tivo ) and used it for 4 months-nothing but problems. I was talking to an Amazon rep about another matter and they asked how everything was. I said that I had a lot of problems with the Replay-and Replay’s customer service was NO help. The Amazon rep said hold on a moment- came back and said they were sending a return label for me to use to send the unit to Amazon!. He said as soon as they received the unit I will be credited ( $800 dollars!!!). I was flabbergasted and said thanks and have been a faithful customer since then, singing their praises far and wide. They truly have customer service right and that folks, indeed, starts at the top. Thanks Jeff!!!

  41. kyle4 says:

    Isn’t this kind of encouraging thieves to register their credit cards, use up the money and than purchase mp3’s expecting to get them for free. Sure there’s torrents but people could jump on this.

    Interesting though.

  42. spinachdip says:

    @kylo4: Because there’s a huge market for stolen mp3s on eBay and Craigslist?

  43. crichton007 says:

    I had a similar thing happen to me. My credit card expired and I had forgotten to update it with Amazon. When I realized what happened and tried to pay for them I was told that I didn’t really have to. I even asked, “Are you sure?” and was told that I didn’t have to pay. It’s almost enough to make me dishonest for the free music but I won’t.

  44. jennieblue22 says:

    Amazon is kind – and I really love them for it. BUT the one who really deserves the love is the honest customer – there are fewer of them.

  45. jennieblue22 says:

    @parad0x360: Sorry, but that’s not honest :-D

  46. jennieblue22 says:

    @triscuitbiscuit: That’s great, too. I love it when the companies are good to the buyers

  47. jennieblue22 says:

    @valarmorghulis: They do… :-(

  48. dweebster says:

    @PrestonBerryworth: THINK OF THE INNOCENT KITTENS!

  49. BoomerFive says:

    @ parad0x360, I just have to say that being “fairly honest” is like being “nearly pregnant” or “almost a virgin”

  50. mariospants says:

    Is it me or is the service from these Indian call centers actually getting better?

  51. xkevin says:

    I hope they close this loophole so the scammers don’t take advantage. Amazon is too good of a company to lose out…

  52. omyard says:

    This happened to me. The credit card I normally use for my amazon purchases was close to max. I still got the music, but amazon rejected my payment. I figured that maybe they’d just re-bill me once I paid my card down and they never did.

  53. Anonymous says:

    The same thing had happened to me today! I called customer service and the operator had a similar reaction. I felt absolutely terrible and so I re-downloaded the song after I updated my credit card for 1-click purchasing.

    My main concern and question though is…does the declined transaction get reported to the credit report agencies? The operator assured me that I would not receive a derogatory remark but I’m not sure if she was just putting my mind at ease.