On Credit Card Fraud, the Polizia, and a Controdenuncia

[Week 49]  Because apparently the universe decided I had to experience everything Italy has to offer.
[Week 49] Because apparently the universe decided I had to experience everything Italy has to offer.
Here are the facts:

Saturday, 14 June 2014

  1. I received a notification text from UniCredit that a payment of 458,98€ to SAS FRANCE DIRECT SALE was authorized from my credit card.
  2. Frantic, I spent an hour and a half alternating between calling the hotline to block the card and crying in frustration— anyone who has tried to talk to an Italian customer service agent only to get hung up on repeatedly when they realize you speak English can relate to this.
  3. When I finally got through to perhaps the single sympathetic customer service agent with UniCredit, I explained my problem and she confirmed who I was with the usual questions (birth place, phone number). I asked if the card was now blocked and she said okey.
  4. Not understanding what okey meant, I dried my tears and did what I should’ve done in the first place— called an Italian friend, Marida. She then called up the hotline and confirmed that my account was now blocked. This meant I was safe for the moment and now I had to go to my branch to deal with the ensuing bureaucracy.

Hello, credit card fraud!
Hello, credit card fraud!

The timing of the fraud was a bit troubling since it was Saturday and I had to leave Rome for the ISA Human Rights Conference in Istanbul the next day— thus keeping me out of Rome for a week— then again, is there ever a good time for credit card fraud?

Friday, 20 June 2014

  1. Back in Rome! Roberta, another life-saving Italian friend, and I headed to the nearby questura to make a denuncia. They asked for “proof” of the theft, necessitating us to head to UniCredit to print out my bank statement with the stolen money. They then proceeded to type up a report that basically was a declaration of the facts that occurred (see photo). Comic Sans, alas, was the template for all.
  2. We then went to UniCredit and handed in this denuncia. Apparently though this wasn’t enough to get my account unblocked, the bank needed to do an investigation first. This was fine, at least I now had access to the ATM again and I was confident that it would all go smoothly.

At this point, I once again had to leave Rome this time for the NCCR Swiss Summer School on Democracy Studies— again, without my card but at least with cash in hand. (Yes, this credit card fraud chose the perfect time to strike).

That evening, Roberta called me to say that Elisabetta from UniCredit called her to confirm with me that I really didn’t spend the money— a strange request, considering all the effort and legal implications of the fresh denuncia I just made but yeah, why not. I sent Elisabetta an email, confirming that truly, I did not spend the money on an SAS flight in France.

Finally, I was back in Rome again for the third time.

Monday, 30 June 2014

  1. Returned to UniCredit the moment it opened. I was told that the card was not “clonato” and that I had to make a controdenuncia at the questura. I was confused, considering everything in the original denuncia was correct, but I was told that my account could not be unblocked without this. I was alone that day, no helpful Italian friends, so I asked them to write down what I had to say and headed to the police.
  2. At the questura, I showed the declaration on the piece of UniCredit paper— this was easiest since they spoke no English and I wouldn’t risk my fledgeling Italian with such an important transaction. The police were also very confused, which then gave way to concern for me.

Did I use the money they asked? No.

Did the bank issue me a new card? No. I needed the controdenuncia to get that.

They then called in what I assume was the supervisor, and the three proceeded to have a quiet conversation regarding my request. They talked about how suspicious the situation was, saying “they could have sent this girl here with this note [waving around the paper from UniCredit] that can say anything and she would have no idea.” I nodded along, understanding exactly what they meant but helpless to contribute.

In the end though they let me make the controdenuncia, not having any other alternative really, and I returned to UniCredit where they once again told me that my card was not cloned and asked if I had spent the money. No, for the last time, no. Nevertheless, I asked for a new card, one which I had to pay 13,50€ for, because hey, the 458,98€ wasn’t enough.

Now this could have all ended badly and with more tears, but I had the presence of mind to contact SAS, the company the fraudulent charge was made from, thanks mainly to advice from friends, and they replied within a few days:

SAS

In case you didn’t quite catch that, the reply from SAS Customer Service said:

Dear Ms Dy,

We have been informed by the respective department that the ticket was refunded to your credit card. The reservation was stopped in connection with the SAS Fraud Screening.

Best regards,

Martina Vercellini

So here I am, mildly traumatized by the experience but utterly grateful for the help of amazing Italian friends and for the honesty of Scandinavian companies. I do have a few questions that remain though:

  1. If my card was not “cloned”, how did the fraudulent charges take place?
  2. Why did I make a controdenuncia when everything I said in my original denuncia was true? I know Interpol won’t be investigating my lost 500 Euros, but still, it was fraud plain and simple.
  3. If SAS hadn’t come through with their ‘anti-fraud refund policy’, what would UniCredit have done considering their investigation came to nothing? I don’t think I want the answer to that.

Many questions, and another week in Rome. Please, let this be the end of my suffering.

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4 comments

  • Hi kate, i’ve been meaning to respond to your question about security. They only need to get hold of your card number, that would be easy especially if they’re from one of the websites where you input your credit card details (you need to make sure its secured). But if you swiped somewhere unsecure, then they could clone that. Too many possibilities. Plus, you said that you’re details are publicly available online… That would be quite a catch.

    Once i learned about identity theft i got a bit paranoid with privacy and all.

    Take care dear

    • That’s really scary! I always try and check that my online purchases are secure, but I did use the actual card while traveling as well and it seems that it’s now all too easy for thieves to clone it. My home address and contact details are online (thanks, Italy!) but I do hope nothing banking related is! That would be too much.

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