Friends and family, and hopefully my readers, have picked up on the fact that I like to advocate for consumers – whether it is to help them save money on any number of items, navigate customer service, or understand their options when problems with companies inevitably arise. But, other than a close few of you who might understand why I do this, I’d to like help explain to others why I feel it’s an important cause to speak up. This past week was a great reminder, and an energizer, for why I will continue to advocate.
If you haven’t viewed my two interviews from local FOX and NBC affiliates in DC regarding an identity theft problem I had last year, I encourage you to do so. The videos can be found here and here. If you had followed my previous chronicling of the fraud that was perpetrated against my wife and I by a cleaner from “Handy.com,” this interview brought to light the DC Attorney General’s investigation into fraud and shoddy hiring and other business practices. The investigation and story were the culmination, a year in the making, of justice currently being served to both a company with a major reputation problem now on its hands (a lawsuit is pending) and one of their employees who’s been arrested and pending trial.
What didn’t make the video edits were a few key things that I had hoped would have been communicated – the reason why I took such extraordinary steps to hit back on both the company and its employee who committed the theft. While I ended up being made “whole” financially for the stolen gift card and unauthorized credit card transactions, I still ended up spending a substantial amount of time on the phone to credit card fraud investigators, representatives from the companies to which the credit card transactions occurred, the Police (who were excellent), and of course the media. Among the companies that the fraud occurred against, which was disturbing, were car rental companies. Some how, they let someone else open an account without proving who they were and subsequently allow them to rent cars. ZipCar’s Executive Team received a complaint from me expressing my disbelief as to how this could have happened.
When fraudulent activity occurs, we all pay for it in the end. Credit card charges that are written off result in higher fees and financing interest for consumers. They also result in other downstream issues with the companies in which the transactions occur. For example, after noticing hundreds of dollars in fraudulent Enterprise rental car charges, I not only had the charges removed from my account, I contacted them as well and let them what had happened. They were grateful and ended up working with the DC Police to find the thief. Without that extra step of connecting the dots, that guy might have taken longer to nab without my help.
Another important point is that sometimes it’s not just about the money when we get ripped off. I have complained about poor business practices and customer service on amounts of money smaller than I have spent on for lunch. Why? It’s the principle of it all. Nickel and diming consumers is very easy to do when no one is paying attention to their bank statements or bothers to file a complaint. When you do fight back, it’s extraordinarily empowering. It’s also good practice for when one day something really big will happen and you need a strong voice. Practice as small incidents occur and get ready for when it really matters.
Thanks for reading.