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I had an interesting experience this weekend, and I would like some of your opinions.

I went to dinner with some friends at a local carribean eatery called SweetWater's Jam House. The server very spicy Jamacian food (recommend it if you are ever in Portland). Well, it wasn't cheap and I don't like putting money on my AMEX if I can help it. The bill came for my girlfriend and I and it was $47.57. It had a line item for a "automatic gratuity" (we were in a part of 11 people), which I completely dissagree with anyway, of $7.13. I had eight dollars in cash in my pocket and decided I would just throw that in as tip and keep the extra eight bucks off the card. so, I scratched out the 7.13 and filled in the total like with the $47.57 and signed the receipt. Well, I checked my AMEX bill online yesterday and they had changed the amount to the full $54.70 without my authorizing it by signature. So, I in effect payed a 30% tip for what I would call poor service (althought I will admit it is difficult to serve 11 people; I know, I was a server myself during college).

My question is, is this out-an-out Credit Card Fraud? They are making grumblings like they aren't going to replace those funds on my card. Only time will tell. I just want to be able to tell them that what they did was illegal if it is, so that I can get the money back. By the way, it is more the principle than it is the money. $7.13 won't break my budget.

Thanks,
Brian
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"My question is, is this out-an-out Credit Card Fraud? They are making grumblings like they aren't going to replace those funds on my card. Only time will tell. I just want to be able to tell them that what they did was illegal if it is, so that I can get the money back. By the way, it is more the principle than it is the money. $7.13 won't break my budget."

Brian,
My guess is they probably posted the fact that they do that on large parties somewhere in the menu in small print. So they may have given you "fair warning". But, nothing says that you can't formally dispute the charge (as you have the right to do) with AMEX, and let them squirm for awhile. There is a formal procedure and they'll have to answer to AMEX, and it will take up some of their time. Hope this helps,
johnmoni
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Hi,

I'm not positive but it sounds like fraud to me. If you manually changed the total to be charged to your account and signed that altered receipt, they had no right to charge you for any more. Either your waitperson made an honest mistake or they got greedy.

FYI, it is NOT the restaraunt's right or waitperson's right to add in your gratuity. You can always request to have it left off your bill. No restaurant can insist that it be added. It is done because it is difficult to wait on that many people at once and a waitperson must sacrifice waiting on other tables while waiting on a large party.

Take this up with the manager of the restaurant and if they are not accommodating, dispute the charge with your cc company.
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Johnmoni;

Thanks. I have asked to just credit my card for that amount, and I hope they will.

Just for clarification for anyone else that answers; It did say gratuity include for parties larger than 6. I did expect the automatic gratuity, and have no problem with the amount (it was only 15%). However, I paid $8 in cash rather than put it on the card (for a number of reasons), that is why I scratched it off the bill. I actually gave him more money for a tip than the bill required. In hind sight I should have written something on the receipt that said "Tip paid in cash".

The real concern that have is that they changed my signed receipt. The one that says "I authorize such and such to take this money off my card". That, to me, is like going to the Gap and paying $50 for some jeans, then after I leave the clerk realizing, "oh these weren't on sale...my mistake, I will just change it to the original price of $60". Is that illegal? It seems like an unauthorized charge.

This is of interest to me for future reference. It seems alot of people get screwed in various ways, and I am just building up a library in my head to protect myself.

Thanks again Johnmoni {I AM PAYING ALL OF MY BILLS ON TIME AND IN FULL!!! :o) }

Brian
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Brian,
Your point about the GAP is clear cut - the price is what it is, and shouldn't be changed. But, another post raises a good point about the resturant not having the right to modify your charge receipt, regardless of what their gratuity policy is. I guess I'm not sure about that - maybe others can provide more guidance/advice. Good luck,
johnmoni
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<<long post alert>>

AntiTrader: <<<I had an interesting experience this weekend, and I would like some of your opinions.

I went to dinner with some friends at a local carribean eatery called SweetWater's Jam House. The server very spicy Jamacian food (recommend it if you are ever in Portland). Well, it wasn't cheap and I don't like putting money on my AMEX if I can help it. The bill came for my girlfriend and I and it was $47.57. It had a line item for a "automatic gratuity" (we were in a part of 11 people), which I completely dissagree with anyway, of $7.13. I had eight dollars in cash in my pocket and decided I would just throw that in as tip and keep the extra eight bucks off the card. so, I scratched out the 7.13 and filled in the total like with the $47.57 and signed the receipt. Well, I checked my AMEX bill online yesterday and they had changed the amount to the full $54.70 without my authorizing it by signature. So, I in effect payed a 30% tip for what I would call poor service (althought I will admit it is difficult to serve 11 people; I know, I was a server myself during college).

My question is, is this out-an-out Credit Card Fraud? They are making grumblings like they aren't going to replace those funds on my card. Only time will tell. I just want to be able to tell them that what they did was illegal if it is, so that I can get the money back. By the way, it is more the principle than it is the money. $7.13 won't break my budget.>>>>

"Just for clarification for anyone else that answers; It did say gratuity include for parties larger than 6. I did expect the automatic gratuity, and have no problem with the amount (it was only 15%). However, I paid $8 in cash rather than put it on the card (for a number of reasons), that is why I scratched it off the bill. I actually gave him more money for a tip than the bill required. In hind sight I should have written something on the receipt that said "Tip paid in cash".

The real concern that have is that they changed my signed receipt. The one that says "I authorize such and such to take this money off my card". That, to me, is like going to the Gap and paying $50 for some jeans, then after I leave the clerk realizing, "oh these weren't on sale...my mistake, I will just change it to the original price of $60". Is that illegal? It seems like an unauthorized charge.

This is of interest to me for future reference. It seems alot of people get screwed in various ways, and I am just building up a library in my head to protect myself."


I have never researched this question and do not have a deinitive answer for you, but I suspect that it is a closer call than several people have suggested.

You posts indicate that the fact that the gratuity was included was disclosed and that it was the "expected" 15%, so I suspect that it becomes a question of whether the cash you left (i) was reasonably assumed by the restaurant to be an additional tip or (ii) known to the restaurant to be in lieu and replacement of the line item on the charge.

I suspect (without really knowing) that if the gratuity is fully disclosed, simply deleting it after eating the meal [[and yes, I understand that it not exactly what you did]], gives the appearance of changing a contract after accepting its benefits (i.e. eating the food at the restaurant served by the waiter/waitress).

Was it clear tht you were the one that left the cash on the table? and that you deleted it from the charge slip because you were leaving cash on the table in an amount greater than the required gratuity?

I do not think that your analogy to GAP works because there is no indication that you intended to pay more (or IOW, the higher price was not disclosed to you), whereas the restaurant apparently did disclose its gratuity policy.

Sorry that I have no real answer for you. Disputing the charge in writng and otherwise in compliance with the dispute process of the card issuer (and the governing federal regulations) is the most appropriate manner to proceed, IMO. You may also wish to speak to the manager of the restaurant directly, too.

Hope this helps. Regards, JAFO


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I think the real problem here is more of a miscommunication rather than any real intent to defraud you. The waiter probably assumed that the cash on the table was over and above. I would have given the cash directly to the cashier and made sure your tab was credited. As another post sugested, I would go back and talk directly with the restaurant manager. After you explain what happened, if he/she has any customer service sense, they will probably issue you a credit.

Excepting the first solution, the paper receipt is your "contract." The restaurant will have to produce it to defend any disptute you file with Amex. Also, Amex at one time used ot keep immages of the paper receipt on file. However, I don't think this is the case anymore for reasons I state below.

In today's electronic world the paper receipt is hardly even considered except when there is a dispute. The retailer, in most cases, doesn't even turn copies into the bank any longer. The entire process is electonic now. In fact, I believe your entire transaction was completed electronically _before_ you even saw that paper reciept let alone signed/modified it. If I am off base, someone can correct me on the transaction process here.
I really doubt anyone even looked at that paper receipt after you signed it. It proably just got filed away in some drawer at the restaurant. Even then, after some period of time (whatever their card service requires) the paper receipts are discarded.

Whatever you do, do it quickly. If you can't work things out with the restaurant manager, file the dispute with Amex in _writing_ within 60 days of the charge. Don't count on a verbal promise over the phone.

TwinFather

PS Actually, on further thought, I am going to correct myself on the credit card transaction process. I belive the actual transactions post at the end of the day. They have to do a closing procedure on the credit card validator or the register where the the whole "batch" of the day's transaction is transmitted to their credit card service. Up to that point the restaurant/retail store can make corrections and deletions locally before the batch is submitted as final. Its a fine point and only relevent to Brian's situation in the sense that true fraud probably didn't happen. Even in this batch closeout scenario, the paper receipts are seldom reconciled with the batch.

TF
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Jafo;

Thanks for the reply.

In response, (i) I am sure the restaurant/waiter would find any additional money to be an exceptable tip, and (ii) I did not make it clear that I had paid cash instead with the exception of crossing out the top on the receipt.

Being in their shoes, I would probably have been insulted to think that someone would have eaten and not left a tip. I should have made it clear. However, as TMFPokey pointed out, there is no legal (that I am aware of, I am sure you can answer this) obligation from to pay a tip. Moral yes, but not legal. If I felt that I had horrible service and bad food, I should be free to not leave a tip. I would never do this, but it is my right.

My only real problem is that they changed my signed receipt. I have spoken to the manager, and he was less than helpful but he said that he would credit my card the money. This is as far as I will probably go with them. If they don't do it, I doubt I would go through the trouble to get back $7 through disputing with AMEX.

I think the reason this burns me is that in the last 3 months I have 5 different establishements mis-recored either a charge on a card or a written check, all of them in their favor (I am an architect and have very neat handwriting, so it shouldn't be misread). Most have been between .03 and 1.20. Very small sure, but I am beginning to wonder if this has become a new trick to making a slight edge on profit. Of course this is just my paranoid side talking....

Thanks again,
Brian
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... The bill came for my girlfriend and I and it was
$47.57. It had a line item for a "automatic gratuity" (we were in a part of 11 people), which I completely dissagree with anyway, of $7.13. I had eight dollars
in cash in my pocket and decided I would just throw that in as tip and keep the extra eight bucks off the card. so, I scratched out the 7.13 and filled in the
total like with the $47.57 and signed the receipt...


When this happens to me, I usually scratch out "gratuity" and write in "service charge."

I have Webster here with me:

gratuity Something given voluntarily or without obligation.

If they add it to the bill and require it, then it is not a gratuity.

Don't even get me started on restaurants taking advantage of large parties....Give 20 people one server...get lousy service....then charge a compulsary service charge. Olive Garden is the worst.
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SpaceEngineer;

LOL. good idea...I will remember that in the future.

it is difficult to wait on a table of more than 10 people, but I have been to restaurants where the service with a party of 15 has been impecable(sp). They deserved a 30% gratuity, whereas some don't even deserve a 10% service charge.

brian
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I agree with TwinFather that this is more a problem of miscommunication than of fraud.

While I can't speak for all restaurants, I worked for a major corporation in the food & beverage industry. When a credit card charge slip is printed, this is an approval process, not an actual charge. After the signature, the credit card is "closed" in the computer with any additional tip added on by the customer. In this case, it sounds like the tip was included already, and therefore the charge was "closed" including the disputed tip by a server who didn't even review the slip. The charges are transmitted electronically to the "bank" at the end of the night. ALL credit card receipts are reviewed for accuracy by an auditor and any corrections made (even after the first original charge). These paper copies are kept for years after the charge. They would be used to defend against a disputed charge.

As to whether the "contract" was invalidated, I wouldn't care. Customer service would dictate I credit the $7.13 to the customer's account if he contacted me. If the dispute came through the credit card company, in all likelyhood I would just forward a copy of the signed credit card receipt to them.

I would explain the situation to the restaurant manager and Amex. To upset a customer over $7.13 is ridiculous.
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<<<another long post alert>>>

AntiTrader:

"Jafo;

Thanks for the reply."


Your welcome.

"In response, (i) I am sure the restaurant/waiter would find any additional money to be an exceptable tip, and (ii) I did not make it clear that I had paid cash instead with the exception of crossing out the top on the receipt."

WRT this issue, I would put it in the live and learn category about communication, but would still pursue the dollars.

Being in their shoes, I would probably have been insulted to think that someone would have eaten and not left a tip. I should have made it clear. However, as TMFPokey pointed out, there is no legal (that I am aware of, I am sure you can answer this) obligation from to pay a tip. Moral yes, but not legal."

Thanks for the compliment, but I am not omniscient about all matters of the law, and I am human and make mistakes. As I said earlier, I have not researched this issue. I would generally agree with you view of tipping, but IMO the issue is murkier because of the notice about the gratuity policy and implied agreement
by staying, ordering and eating. You may (NOTE - may, I really do not know definitively) have foregone that right when the gratuity policy is disclosed. Consider someone who odered an expensive entree (price fully disclosed on the menu) and when the credit card slip came, reduced the total to lower the price of the entree. How is that different from someone who delets the gratuity? And yes, I understand that you did not simply delete the gratuity, yuou also placed cash in excess of that amount on the table, but my prior post discussed possible miscommunication/misunderstanding with WRT leaving the cash.

"If I felt that I had horrible service and bad food, I should be free to not leave a tip. I would never do this, but it is my right."

As I said, generally I agree, but see preceding paragraph for why this scenario might be different. Also, IMO, the tip is generally for the service and not the quality of the food (which should be taken up with the manager), assuming it is what you ordered and was not misrepresented by the waiter/waitress. I do not beleive that a waiter/waitress should be held accountable for things he/she cannot control, BWDIK.

As I said, I believe that you should pursue the dollars if you want, but I am less than certain that outright fraud was committed.

"I think the reason this burns me is that in the last 3 months I have 5 different establishements mis-recored either a charge on a card or a written check, all of them in their favor (I am an architect and have very neat handwriting, so it shouldn't be misread). Most have been between .03 and 1.20. Very small sure, but I am beginning to wonder if this has become a new trick to making a slight edge on profit. Of course this is just my paranoid side talking...."

I am sorry to hear about your recent difficulties (and I certainly have my paranoid side, too) but even if your handwriting is very neat, is it LARGE ENOUGH to read accurately and quickly in a dim lit restaurant? The surveyors and architects with whom I am acquainted still seem to write so small because of space limitations inherent in blueline drawings.

Just my $0.02. Regards, JAFO

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Write a short note and send the receipt to Amex..
I was once charged a $5.00 fee by a hotel for telephone service. I did not use the phone, and I didn't request that it be turned on. Amex got me my $5.00 refund, but they probably shouldn't have. Why? My fault - I had signed the charge slip when I checked in, not when I checked out. With a receipt, you should be in good shape.

Eric

The bill came for my girlfriend and I and it was $47.57. It had a line item for a "automatic gratuity" (we were in a part of 11 people), which I completely dissagree with anyway, of $7.13. I had eight dollars in cash in my pocket and decided I would just throw that in as tip and keep the extra eight bucks off the card. so, I scratched out the 7.13 and filled in the total like with the $47.57 and signed the receipt. Well, I checked my AMEX bill online yesterday and they had changed the amount to the full $54.70 without my authorizing it by signature. So, I in effect payed a 30% tip for what I would call poor service (althought I will admit it is difficult to serve 11 people; I know, I was a server myself during college).

My question is, is this out-an-out Credit Card Fraud? They are making grumblings like they aren't going to replace those funds on my card. Only time will tell. I just want to be able to tell them that what they did was illegal if it is, so that I can get the money back. By the way, it is more the principle than it is the money. $7.13 won't break my budget.


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Don't even get me started on restaurants taking advantage of large parties....Give 20 people one server...get lousy service....then charge a compulsary service charge. Olive Garden is the worst.

I actually had a restaurant call the police on me. The service was sooooo bad that I wasn't going to tip anything. They didn't accept that, and called the police. This restaurant was a bar/restaturant combo, and obvisouly had problems in the past, the police sent 5 cars with lights and sirens . . .

FWIW, the police politely informed the restarant management that they can not legally enforce a "mandatory tip," even if it is printed on the menu or on a posted sign.

The manager then tried to change the bill. We had sent some food back because it was that bad, and they had removed these items from the bill. But, since I wasn't paying the tip they wanted to add them back to the bill. The police officer (not so politely now) informed the manager that the bill I was presented with was the final bill, no changes allowed.
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<<<FWIW, the police politely informed the restarant management that they can not legally enforce a "mandatory tip," even if it is printed on the menu or on a posted sign.>>>

Which would be the criminal law of which state? Does his opinion even cover state civil law or federal law? I suspect that this was street justice (cop was eved for being called about a billing dispute), which sometimes only bears an incidental relationship to the what the actual statutes state.

I would feel more confidnet for future reference if someone could cite a governing statute.

Just my $0.02. Regards, JAFO

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You may (NOTE - may, I really do not know definitively) have foregone that right when the gratuity policy is disclosed. Consider someone who odered an expensive entree (price fully disclosed on the menu) and when the credit card slip came, reduced the total to lower the price of the entree. How is that different from someone who deletes the gratuity?

I don't think this example at all applies. Even if I agree to a mandatory gratuity, there is nothing that states how I must pay it. Certainly I've paid part of a restaurant bill in cash and part on a credit card before (and not just the tip portion). I think the mistake AntiTrader made was in not specifying to the waiter that he wanted only part of the bill placed on the credit card. Obviously he realizes that now :) Since he did pay the rest of the bill in cash he is entitled to a refund from the restaurant.

Lael
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d the receipt. Well, I checked my AMEX bill online yesterday and they had changed the amount to the full $54.70 without my authorizing it by signature. So, I in effect payed a 30% tip for what I would call poor service (althought I will admit it is difficult to serve 11 people; I know, I was a server myself during college).

My question is, is this out-an-out Credit Card Fraud?


Hi Brian!

I'm sure you've gotten plenty of replies on this one, but I'm just catching up on the board, and I'll toss my thoughts in on this.

Did you get a receipt when you paid that had the amount you intended? If so, you should've spoken up then and there, but regardless, the amount charged was different than what you expected to pay, and you need to dispute the charge with AMEX. I'm certain that AMEX will have absolutely no problem crediting your account--especially since we're talking about a very small amount.

Outside of the US, it's quite customary for a 15% gratuity to be automatically added to the check, and it's expected that the customer will pay it as it's often not considered optional believe it or not.

The reason that it's foreign to us is that unfortunately in most cases, the server does not get this gratuity. It's considered a service charge--more like a tax, if you will. Most of the service charge is divided up between all of the help, with a portion going to the restaurant. Again, while it's an unusual practice to us, it's very normal in other countries, and it's very customary that customers will add more on top of the final amount if they liked the service.

But since you didn't intend for this to be the case, and the bill was changed unbeknownst to you, I'd definitely call AMEX and dispute the added charge.

Good luck!

Tony
...but I still am...

Off2Aruba
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llambe: <<<You may (NOTE - may, I really do not know definitively) have foregone that right when the gratuity policy is disclosed. Consider someone who odered an expensive entree (price fully disclosed on the menu) and when the credit card slip came, reduced the total to lower the price of the entree. How is that different from someone who deletes the gratuity?>>>

"I don't think this example at all applies."

You are quoting me out of context. The statement you quoted above followed a statement about the ability to not leave any tip at all.

"Even if I agree to a mandatory gratuity, there is nothing that states how I must pay it."

I agree.

"Certainly I've paid part of a restaurant bill in cash and part on a credit card before (and not just the tip portion)."

So have I.

"I think the mistake made was in not specifying to the waiter that he wanted only part of the bill placed on the credit card. Obviously he realizes that now :)"

I agree on both counts.

"Since he did pay the rest of the bill in cash he is entitled to a refund from the restaurant."

I agree (assuming the accuracy of the balance of the post, which I do believe; no offense intended to the original poster, but we have heard only one side of the description of events), and I have suggested as much.

Regards, JAFO


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I have been to restaurants where the establishment requests authorization over and above the amount of the meal (anticipating the addition of a tip on the receipt). When I check the automated service, the card issuer will note the inflated amount. In other words, while the meal was 40.00 the automated service will say 50.00. Once the receipt is received the inflated amount is lowered to the amount of the meal plus the tip I have authorized on the receipt. Give it a few days, this may be the scenario in this case. Bottom line, once the card issuer sees that you have scratched off the tip and revised the total, the charge should be modified.

tsch
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Hi all;

thanks for all the great imput. That is why I like posting to this board.

Some final thoughts on this, if you don't mind. As Jafo said:
>>I agree (assuming the accuracy of the balance of the post, which I do believe; no offense intended to the original poster, but we have heard only one side of the description of events), and I have suggested as much. <<

I am terribly offended!!! Just kidding. I have only given my account of the situation. I am sure that if I am in their shoes, and they get a $300 wad of cash and two credit receipts (9 people paid with cash and two with cards), and it appeard that one had left off the tip on his card, I would have though, "What a jerk!". One of things brought up in this thread, that I hadn't thought about, is that they could have pre-charged the amount then verified it at the end of the day without double checking the signed reciept, which I doubt. If I had left additional tip, I am sure that it would have been included. The only thing that really bothered me was that they changed the amount on the signed receipt without my approval.

Either way, moral of the story: if you use two forms of payment for any bill, let them know that it is your intention so that any mis-communication is avoided.

From Tony:
>>Did you get a receipt when you paid that had the amount you intended? If so, you should've spoken up then and there, but regardless, the amount charged was different than what you expected to pay, and you need to dispute the charge with AMEX. <<

Yes. It was one of those machines that prints two paper copies rather than the carbon copy. So I filled out both identically right there and gave one to the server. If I don't get a refund I will disput it with AMEX...you guys have convinced me.

Bottom line: I should have paid more attention and been more clear in my intentions. I could have avoided the whole thing.

Thanks again,

Brian


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Yes. It was one of those machines that prints two paper copies rather than the carbon copy. So I filled out both identically right there and gave one to the server. If I don't get a refund I will disput it with AMEX...you guys have convinced me.

Brian, you won't have any trouble at all. LOL, even if AMEX balked, and there's no way they would, just send 'em a copy of the receipt.

You're covered, Fool! ;)

Tony
...but I still am...

Off2Aruba

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I am sure that if I am in their shoes, and they get a $300 wad of cash and two credit receipts (9 people paid with cash and two with cards), and it appeard that one had left off the tip on his card, I would have though, "What a jerk!".

From the above, my suspicion is that the story may not be too complicated after all.
Sounds like the 9 who paid with cash left it all including the tip on the table. The two who paid by cc probably left the 15% tip charge on their card. You were the only one to pay the bill on the card and leave out cash for the tip.

I suspect one of the servers took the cash you left on the table, and may not have told the other server (till later, if at all) about your $8.
Your server who didn't see the cash thought you were stiffing him by taking the tip off the card, so he put it back on the receipt. Maybe later he realized he got 2 tips from you, maybe not.

I also suspect if you get grief, it will be along the lines of "you lost $8 cash", not "you were overbilled/defrauded on your cc charge"
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