Charges on corporate credit cards can often go unnoticed even when employees are submitting expense reports. Especially if the charges are small.
The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit describing a criminal enterprise responsible for “micro charges,” fraudulent charges ranging from 20 cents to $10, to as many as one million credit cards since approximately 2006. Because the amounts were low, most of the fraud went unnoticed by cardholders. Money mules were used to divert the funds to Eastern European countries. (“Money mules” are typically individuals who are recruited to assist in a criminal enterprise via help wanted advertisements on job placement websites. In this case, the mules believed they were applying to be financial services managers.) These mules opened numerous LLCs and bank accounts. They also set up websites with toll free numbers, creating an apparently legitimate web presence. Thanks to this facade, the websites were granted merchant status, allowing them to process credit card orders.
The victims of this credit card scam would see the fictional merchant’s name and toll free number on their credit card statements. If they attempted to dispute a charge, the toll free numbers would go to voicemail or be disconnected. Most frustrated consumers may not bother to take the additional step of disputing a 20 cent charge with the credit card company.
Victims of fraudulent credit card charges only wind up paying the unauthorized charges if they don’t detect and report the credit card fraud within 60 days. A 60 day window covers two billing cycles, which should be enough for most account-conscious consumers who keep an eye on their spending. During that time, you are covered by a “zero liability policy,” which was invented by credit card companies to reduce fears of online fraud. Under this policy, the cardholder may be responsible for up to $50.00 in charges, but most banks extend the coverage to charges under $50.00.
If you fail to recognize and dispute unauthorized transactions on your credit card statements, you take responsibility for the fraudulent charges. While 20 cents may not seem worth the bother, these seemingly minor charges are certainly funding criminal activity, and perhaps even terrorism. So to prevent credit card scams take the time to scrutinize those unauthorized credit card charges every single month.