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I got hit with a cleaning service scam where the Facebook group had > 30k likes, positive reviews from real looking people, etc.

They charged me over $200 and didn't provide any service. There is no way to contact them (thinking back, should have been a red flag).

Called my bank and they said because I put the card in myself, there isn't anything I can do. I'm actually feeling slightly blessed, because they didn't charge me $10,000.

Seeing as they will not get in financial trouble (maybe a ban on Facebook). They know this, so why didn't they charge me $10,000?

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    Would you agree to pay if they charged you $10000?
    – littleadv
    Aug 15, 2022 at 22:50
  • That's not my question. My question is, because they can most certainly get away with it, why not just charge my card without asking for it?
    – Phil
    Aug 16, 2022 at 2:12
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    @Phil because $200 is too little to be worth anyone's time to investigate, but $10,000 is going to be a felony in most states, and runs the risk of drawing the attention of the FBI or FTC. The scammer's goal is to stay below law enforcement's radar. If you report it to Facebook they may be able to see that it is part of a coordinated effort and if they do they may be able to interest the FTC or FBI. Aug 16, 2022 at 2:56
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    Who pays 100% up front for cleaning (or any other) service?
    – RonJohn
    Aug 16, 2022 at 4:09
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    @Phil the reason the bank denied your claim was because you actually agreed to pay the $200. Hence, my question - would you have agreed to pay $10000? If not then they cannot "just charge" it, it would be reversed by the bank as fraudulent.
    – littleadv
    Aug 16, 2022 at 5:06

3 Answers 3

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The scammer is like any other business. They set certain price points to influence customer behavior.

At the $200 level you did a certain amount of due diligence, and then gave them your debit card information. Now that you feel ripped off you contacted the bank. They weren't any help. Now you have to decide if it is worth contacting Facebook and/or the police to get the $200 back.

If they set the price too low it isn't worth their effort. If they set it too high they get fewer customers, but the probability of a transaction being reported is higher.

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    In addition, there may be very distinct legal consequences for stealing $10,000 vs $200. In Washington state for example, $200 would be a misdemeanor and $10,000 would be a Class B felony. Aug 15, 2022 at 23:48
  • @CharlesE.Grant that is true, but in this case it's a federal wire fraud charge which is a felony regardless of the amount
    – littleadv
    Aug 16, 2022 at 5:07
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That's not my question. My question is, because they can most certainly get away with it, why not just charge my card without asking for it?

That would be a fraudulent transaction, and the bank would reverse it. If you show that the agreed upon amount is $200, but the charge is $10000, the bank would not honor the charge.

In your case, the agreed upon amount was $200, and the charge was $200, so the bank saw no reason to intervene. Since you paid with a debit card, you do not have the protections for credit card charges where products or services were not supplied, you only get protection where the charge was outright fraudulent (which in your case it was not, but in your proposed scenario - it would be).

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    Interesting, so in (I assume) the US you can't do an ordinary chargeback on debit Visa/MC transactions? In the EU, charging back a debit transaction for "services not rendered" is perfectly possible, there's actually the same claim form for both credit and debit cards.
    – TooTea
    Aug 16, 2022 at 14:10
  • Yes, in the US debit transactions are much less protected. I believe that's because they're governed by different laws with different regulatory requirements, and banks will obviously only do the minimum they're required.
    – littleadv
    Aug 16, 2022 at 15:33
  • I found this not to be the case with Chase Bank. They said as long as I was the one who added the debit card to the website, they won't redeem it. Unless you're making a distinction between the agreed upon rate and if the services were actually performed?
    – Phil
    Aug 16, 2022 at 20:10
  • @Phil yes, there is most definitely a distinction. If the POS slip shows $200 and the charge is $10000 - they have to reverse the charge. Similar with web charges, if the receipt shows $200 but the charge is $10000 - they have to reverse it. In your case however the charge matches the receipt, so what they're saying is that since you actually authorized the transaction - they cannot reverse it.
    – littleadv
    Aug 16, 2022 at 22:06
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If you agree to pay $200 for cleaning, and they charge you $200 and don't clean, then you have a services-not-rendered chargeback. If they charge $10,000, then you have an unauthorized-amount chargeback. As you are experiencing right now, a services-not-rendered chargeback can be more difficult to pursue than an unauthorized-amount one. For the former, you have to show the services were not rendered, while for the latter you only have to show that you didn't authorize the transaction. Moreover, the latter is more likely to be treated as a criminal matter, while the former may be brushed off as a civil one (it's not like people generally get arrested for not showing up to work, even if they've been paid in advance).

You should push back on your bank, though. Services-not-rendered is a perfectly valid chargeback reason, and the person who said you can't charge back is at best misinformed. Perhaps they thought is was a wire transfer or something. Insist on filing a chargeback. It would be easier if it were a credit card, so that's something to keep in mind in the future.

Cite for services-not-rendered chargebacks on debit cards:

Can I Dispute a Debit Card Charge That I Willingly Paid For?
Yes, you can dispute a charge for all transactions you made willingly if the service was not rendered or the product was not as described. Just be careful to meet all the merchants’ requirements from the terms and conditions of use, and you’ll win this fight easily.

https://merchantchimp.com/how-to-dispute-a-charge-on-debit-card/

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  • Since it's a debit card transaction that was in fact authorized, there's no chargeback at all, the bank answered correctly. If it was a fraudulent transaction, it would have been charged back even on debit card (e.g.: charging $10K instead of the agreed upon $200).
    – littleadv
    Aug 16, 2022 at 5:08
  • Maybe worth noting that in some countries debit card chargebacks are possible. My UK Mastercard debit card allows it, and so did the previous Visa one my bank previously issued. There is a £10 minimum spend with Mastercard, but none with Visa. Aug 16, 2022 at 9:43
  • @littleadv Do you have any cite for that? Are you claiming that services-not-rendered is not a valid chargeback reason in general, or are you claiming that there are special rules for debit cards? Aug 16, 2022 at 21:16
  • @Acccumulation not for debit cards. At least not in the US.
    – littleadv
    Aug 16, 2022 at 21:36

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