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I thought the beast dead, but it hath arisen to torment your white knight once again. A brief history of the skirmishes in question. A year ago I received a letter from Blockbuster Video in Tampa FL that I had an overdue video. I called the store and explained to them I did not have a Blockbuster membership in Tampa, had never spent more than 4 hours in Tampa, and not in the last 5 years at that. They said our mistake and that was it.

Or so I thought. Last May I noticed a credit card charge on my Amex Blue from a Blockbuster in Tampa. I called Blockbuster, they had no record of such an attack and counter thrust that they could not verify if they had, in fact, charged my credit card. I whipped out my trusty sword of truth and filed a dispute with Amex Blue. After 6-8 weeks, I was victorious. Or so I thought.

Protecting my realm as is my custom and responsibility, I was looking at the latest charges on my Amex Blue when I noticed that BlockBuster Tampa had risen from the ashes and was once again mounting an attack. Perhaps it thought it might catch me unawares but no, I have seen it and I am prepared to respond. Amex Blue requires me to wait until the close of my statement period to throw my lance, but I am thinking more drastic measures may be necesary.

But as to what those measures may be, I feel a need to turn to my trusted council, the Fools of the Round Table.

I am thinking thinking this demon to be so resiliant I may need to change change plastic shields and have Amex Blue reissue under a new number. But I have other monthly tributes that share this card and it would be a hassle to retrain them to the new shield frequency.

I am thinking it might also be appropriate to approach the heart of the demon to see if there was any corporate humanity beating softly behind the tough outer scales, and if the pen truly be more mightieth than the sword, a letter to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco may be a more prudent course of action.

What dost though Foolish wizards think?

Fuskie
Who wants to slay the Blue Demon once and for all...
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I cannot give too much advice here...but there is one place I can pass on something from Clark Howard...


I am thinking it might also be appropriate to approach the heart of the demon to see if there was any corporate humanity beating softly behind the tough outer scales, and if the pen truly be more mightieth than the sword, a letter to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco may be a more prudent course of action.

Several times in the last couple of months, Clark has said letters to CEOs are not likely to do you any good -- they will never see the letter. If you can find the names of some VPs in the company, write letters to THEM since they almost always will read the letter.

ACME
Who had to rec Fuskie's post as being one of the more entertaining requests for help in recent memory...
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I am thinking thinking this demon to be so resiliant I may need to change change plastic shields and have Amex Blue reissue under a new number. But I have other monthly tributes that share this card and it would be a hassle to retrain them to the new shield frequency.

If you want to determine What Is Truth, you continue battling with letters and demands for proof and so on. I've never done this, so other Fools will have to provide the details of how to do so.

Perhaps Truth is that someone mad a transposition in a valid Amex account of a real Blockbuster customer and it happened to land on your Amex card. Perhaps Truth is that someone is trying to steal your credit card. Perhaps you will be unable to determine what Truth is, regardless of how long you Fight the Good Fight.

If you want to solve the problem, you cancel the card number. First try is to have Blockbuster reissue the card under a new number, any you live with the hassle of retraining other monthly tributes. If that doesn't work, you cancel Amex entirely and find a different style of plastic shield.

Unsolicited opinion: I avoid automated monthly tributes to the extent I can. I want every charge on my credit card to be initiated by me, and affirmative decision that a bill should be paid. Fuskie's current issue is an example of why I want this.

Failing the ability or desire to cancel automated monthly tributes, you might want to look at Citi's virtual account numbers, or see whether Amex has something that works like them. Citi claims that I can set up a virtual number to be used by a single merchant for repeat purchases. I haven't used this function, but would try it if I thought I had to do a mechanized monthly tribute. Walking further out on the Limb of Speculation, I expect that if I succumbed to automated monthly tributes in this manner, and had to change the underlying account number for a problem such as described here, Citi might change the underlying card number and leave virtual numbers that I specify alone.

Patzer
who has had a hassle every time he had to cancel an auto-charge
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Greetings, Fuskie, great tale! Bottom line: Your Amex is compromised. Consider it "lost or stolen" and have them issue a new number. Can they reliably link up any autodeductions to the new number or will you have to do it?

My fiance went through something like this with MBNA a couple of years ago. All at once, his card was under attack - charges started appearing on it that he did not make, nor authorize. Turned out it was some shady outfit that claimed that five or more years previously he had contracted for some service or other that gave them the right to recharge the card at will. Discussions with MBNA resulted in THEIR recommendation to cancel the present card and transfer the card to a completely new number - they kept his long and good credit history so as not to compromise his credit score and they wiped out the offending charges. He has had no problems since then of this sort. MBNA said that keeping the old number was not an option because they had no way to prevent the shady merchant from recharging it. As I recall, my fiance did have to re-establish his autodeductions - MBNA did not, or would not, do so. But it was worth it to be rid of the pestilence and he learned his lesson about who he was willing to trust with autodeduction. In your case, it seems the card number has been outright pilfered but I think the net result is the same: you will more likely than not need a new card number. Writing to the Blockbuster CEO may be satisfying but won't get you certain and swift result.

xraymd
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Fuskie,

You wrote, What dost though Foolish wizards think?

I'd call Amex and tell them my account has apparently been compromised. Oh no! Tell them you want a new account number and new card pronto!

They're making you wait so you will treat it as a billing dispute. That's wrong-headed thinking. Since the incident involves an unauthorized charge, it is fraud and Amex must deal with it now, today. Waiting for another fraudulent charge to appear is simply unacceptable – even if you and I know that's not going to happen.

In fact, I'd pick up the phone and try to file a police report about the incident – this is clearly more than a simple misunderstanding. Be truthful about it; but tell them you don't live in Tampa and have never been to a Blockbuster in Tampa and you feel like Blockbuster is either trying to extort money from you fraudulently or they're trying to get you to pay for their mistake.

If you didn't authorize the rental, I don't see how you could have implicitly authorized the charge against your credit card no matter what Blockbuster claims in their membership agreement.

BTW: Visiting my local Blockbuster they used to ask me for a current credit card. I always tell them no. (I actually tell them I don't have one with me.) They continue to rent movies to me and they've recently quit pestering me about it. (Any time I'm late, I always go in and pay the late fee immediately.) Go figure.

Moral of my little story? If you used your Amex card to sign up at Blockbuster, don't bother telling them you're changing the account number. That way they can't keep trying to ding you for this over and over again. Of course they could try to suspend your membership…

- Joel
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Thanks for your insight, Joel.

this is clearly more than a simple misunderstanding. Be truthful about it; but tell them you don't live in Tampa and have never been to a Blockbuster in Tampa and you feel like Blockbuster is either trying to extort money from you fraudulently or they're trying to get you to pay for their mistake.

Honestly, I do not think this is the case. I think it is a computer error where a number has been transposed. This is the only vendor which which I am having a problem. The full story started a year ago when I got an overdue notice in the mail, to which I responded and thought had resolved. In all this time, there has been no sign of any other misadventures and I have checked all 3 CRs twice in the last year.

Fuskie
Who has more on this story in an upcoming post...
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