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I signed up for a service that was advertised as "$200 per month." I didn't know the company was under investigation by my state's Attorney General for fraud and questionable business practices.

The company had me sign a flurry of papers, including one that was folded over and I could not see the entire sheet. But the paper lying out in front of me said "total due today, $119."

When I got home 3 hours later, I saw that the company had charged me for $8,500 on my credit card. I immediately called them and they said (basically) "we got you... you have no recourse."

I called my credit card company, Chase, and they said I needed to wait until the charge posted, then issue a chargeback. I did this, but now (months later) they have decided the matter in favor of the merchant. You see, it turns out that folded paper I signed was a customer sales slip (that didn't look like a sales slip) and had the $8,395 amount on it. Chase has said, "you signed the slip... as far as we are concerned, this is not a matter for the credit card company." They do not provide protection against consumer fraud.

Questions: do I have any recourse with this merchant? Should I undertake any further steps with Chase?

  • 8
    I'd say speak to a lawyer. – NotMe Oct 19 '15 at 19:00
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    It's rather late, but I'd have advised you to go on record with the police immediately, even it it's after normal business hours. Some states have a three-day "cooling-off" period on some contracts to protect people from high-pressure salesmen; too late for that now...And of course report this to the att'y general's office as well, first thing tomorrow morning; the consumer fraud unit may be able to help you directly. Under no circumstances accept their claim that you can't cancel, though they may be able to bill you for the period before you explicitly cancel. – keshlam Oct 20 '15 at 0:00
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    (Pure curiosity: what was the service? That's one heck of a start-up fee unless they need to do something like running a mile of cable...) – keshlam Oct 20 '15 at 0:09
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    @fixee don't get a retainer, get a 1 hour consultation (initial ones are many times free) just to understand where you stand with regards to your rights. Lawyers that won't talk to you before you prepay 30 hours - don't deserve your business. In any case - you should insist to cancel the contract, and read it carefully (you did get a copy, didn't you?) about all the charges and fees and conditions and terms etc. – littleadv Oct 20 '15 at 2:22
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    @Fixee the odds are that all you need beyond a free consultation is a nastygram on the law firms letterhead. That should be a form letter and only require a minimal amount of billable time. They might even do it as part of the free consult because it's a minimal effort item and doing it free is worth good will and that in the unlikely event that more is needed that they'll be getting your business as a result. – Dan Neely Oct 20 '15 at 14:18
33

Concealing parts of a document in order to obtain a signature is illegal. The company committed signature forgery because they effectively modified the document after you signed it (i.e. unfolded the parts that were previously folded). I suggest that you go to your local police department to file a report, citing "signature forgery". Once you have the police report, call your bank's fraud department (not the general billing dispute line) and cite the police report right away, specifically calling out "signature forgery". I would be surprised if you don't get a favorable outcome.

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    Great answer, but the one word its missing is "lawyer". – Reinstate Monica Oct 20 '15 at 2:07
  • Yep, you'd better be sure of your call before you accuse someone with signature forgery. Tell your story to a lawyer first and see if he confirms it would hold in court or not. – Dmitry Grigoryev Oct 20 '15 at 14:50
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    @DmitryGrigoryev Does that really matter? A company like the one the OP is dealing with probably has no desire to appear in court. Better get $8000 from another mark than fight for this one. So if you get the credit card to reverse the charge, you're home free I think. A lawyer can still help you hit the right buttons but the goal is to look as if you're not worth the trouble, not to find water-tight legal arguments. – Relaxed Oct 20 '15 at 17:17
9

If the business is being investigated by your state's Attorney General's office, then your first call should be to that office. They will be able to help you in a few ways, even if they can't explicitly resolve the situation, and they also would undoubtedly appreciate your information to add to their case as well.

First, they may be able to tell you how other victims have had their cases resolved, particularly if any went to court on their own. While they won't be able to provide you with personal information of the other victims unless it is public knowledge (via a court case), the information about how the other victims resolved the cases may be helpful - both to show what to do, and what not to do.

Second, they may be able to put you in contact with an attorney who is handling other cases like yours. That may reduce the cost of the attorney (as they'll have already done some of the work), and may mean that the attorney is willing to work with no up front fee on the assumption of winning the case.

Third, if there are options for getting your money back without a court case, the AG's office may be able to help provide those as well.


If the Attorney General's office is unable to help you, then your best bet is to contact an attorney on your own - look for one who specializes in consumer protection and fraud. This is the purpose attorneys exist for: pursuing your interests against another's. Let them do their job. Do make an effort to find a good, honest attorney; you may find some help on how to do this on law.se if you need it (not actual recommendations, mind you, just help with how you would go about finding one). It sounds like your claim would be above and beyond the level of a small claims court lawsuit, but verify this in your jurisdiction; if small claims court goes up to $10,000, you may be able to pursue it there on your own - but I would still get some help from an attorney, at least finding out what you would need to win.

  • Thanks Joe. There was a news exposé on this merchant a month after my encounter with them, and that article contained the name of the attorney handling other cases pending against this company. So I have contacted him. – Fixee Oct 20 '15 at 20:57
1

I agree that you shouldn't give up trying to get your money back, but I strongly feel that this is not sufficient. If they are trying to victimize you, they are trying to victimize others.

Taking care of getting your own money back should be your top concern, but contacting any Attorneys General and District Attorneys that have jurisdiction should also be a priority to help others--past, present, and future--that might be caught in this scam. Contact them, contact the police, contact the BBB, contact the local media. Shine a light and make the cockroaches pack up and get out of town.

"We got you... you have no recourse" should always be met with the response, "I will shut you down."

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