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Last week a noticed a $598 charge from build.com. I doubled-checked that I had not purchased anything from them or their network of stores. I was prepared to dispute the charge as soon as it was no longer pending, but today my account was credited back the full amount.

Is there any way to know if this transaction was fraudulent or just a mistake?

In either case why would it have been reversed?

Update

The credit card company was not able to offer any information, which I expected. The merchant, however, was able to provide me with some details. Someone used my credit card number to ship a $600 sprinkler system to a house in my area, but the shipping address they used got them flagged by build.com for fraudulent activity, which is why the credit was issued. My best guess is that my credit card got skimmed from a local gas pump or something similar. I don't have to worry about unauthorized charges currently, but I can be pretty sure that my credit card has been compromised.

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    Did you call your credit card company and ask them? They would seem to be in the best position to answer this, and all us mere mortals can do is speculate. – a CVn Feb 28 '17 at 15:46
  • I asked about the initial charge while it was pending, but received very little information so I am not optimistic about getting much more from customer service a second time around. It is probably worth a try though. – Nosrac Feb 28 '17 at 15:53
  • Have you ever purchased anything from build.com in the past with this credit card? – Ben Miller Mar 1 '17 at 12:35
  • @BenMiller, No, I have never purchased anything from this network of stores. – Nosrac Mar 1 '17 at 12:55
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There are three possibilities as to what happened:

  1. You had purchased something from them in the past, and they still had your card info on file. They then mistakenly charged your card again, realized their mistake, and reversed it. (According to your comment, this isn't possible, since you have never purchased from this merchant before.)

  2. Someone accidentally entered your card number. (This is not likely, since there needs to be multiple digits entered incorrectly in order to get another valid card number, due to the Luhn Algorithm.)

  3. Someone stole your card number, and the fraudulent charge was caught and reversed.

If it was one of the first two scenarios, your card number is still safe. If it was the third, then your card number is stolen and will probably need to be changed.

I have dealt with fraudulent charges before, and each time, it was my credit card bank that insisted on sending me a new card, not me. This makes sense, as they are ultimately liable for fraudulent charges, not you or I.

Usually, if there was fraud suspected, the bank will contact you and ask you whether the charge was legitimate or not. In this case, perhaps they didn't need to contact you, because you had already told them when the charge was still pending that it wasn't yours.

Ultimately, we don't know which of these scenarios it was. You could ask the bank which scenario it was, but it is possible that they don't know, either.

If you are concerned, you could ask the bank for a new card number, but it does cost the bank something to issue a new number, so you could let them make that call. Whether or not you get a new card number, you should be watching your credit card statements closely for false charges, as should everyone.

  • Let's assume that the credit came from build.com (because the credit details look very similar to the charge details on my statement and I received no notification from the bank about a fraudulent charge). How would build.com identify a fraudulent charge if it passed initial authorization checks (correct card number, etc)? – Nosrac Mar 1 '17 at 13:05
  • @DanielCarson Perhaps I misunderstood. On your statement, did the pending charge never materialize, or did the charge actually go through to your account, followed by a credit from the merchant? – Ben Miller Mar 1 '17 at 13:07
  • On the same day that the charge materialized, a credit was also issued by the merchant (it appears). – Nosrac Mar 1 '17 at 13:15
  • That is unusual. In my experience, if fraud is suspected by the bank, they catch it while the charge is still pending. This would seem to imply scenario #2 above. You could call the merchant and ask them to explain; hopefully you'll be able to get in touch with someone who can. – Ben Miller Mar 1 '17 at 13:19
  • I agree. Contacting the merchant will probably be more fruitful than contacting the bank. Thank you for sharing your experiences. – Nosrac Mar 1 '17 at 13:20
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Is there any way to know if this transaction was fraudulent or just a mistake?

Not without your Bank and build.com giving up more information. The exact cause may not be known.

It is difficult for this to be a mistake ... it may happen if build.com took he card details over the phone. I am assuming that build.com would always make the user enter card details on website and validate. In which case someone may have put incorrect card number [or tried to fraudulently use your card]

In either case why would it have been reversed?

Either the user/build.com realized the error and reversed. Or build.com determined it was fraudulent and did not proceed with charge.

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