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How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off

A mature man writing something as he uses a calculatorIf you need convincing that you should check credit card statements and receipts routinely, read my story.

You may just learn you’re getting ripped off. Regularly.

I recently purchased concert tickets online. But when my credit card statement arrived in the mail, I found an odd separate charge related to the concert.

My statement showed I had been billed $14 for “event ticket insurance” that I never ordered.

I tracked down the company – even though neither its name nor phone number was on my statement – and got a quick reimbursement.

Even so, that’s a pretty slimy way to do business.

I wonder how many other people who went to that concert – not to mention every other concert or similar event where this company offers “event ticket insurance” – simply ignored the charge, assumed they had ordered it or never saw it at all.

They got ripped off, plain and simple, while the insurance company made an easy profit.

Here’s a quick and easy way to avoid the same fate: Whenever you pay for something with a credit or debit card, save the receipts.

Then, when you get your card or bank statement every month, compare it against those receipts and make sure they match. It’s that simple.

In this particular case, I never got a receipt for the insurance charge – although I did for the tickets.

Where you get overcharged

You’d be surprised how many mistakes are made – usually honestly, but sometimes deliberately – by the merchants and retailers you deal with every day.

Restaurants are notorious for making such mistakes.

Once you give the waiter or waitress your card, they go away and you have no idea what they’re doing with it.

Once I was charged twice at a restaurant: once for the meal, then a second charge including both the meal and the tip.

An honest mistake? Perhaps. Fortunately I had the receipt and could prove the mistake.

This lesson holds especially true for things you pay automatically with your credit card, like utility bills, club memberships, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, insurance premiums and Internet virus protection.

It makes sense to pay these bills automatically. It’s a great way to earn extra cash, points or miles while making sure you’re never late with an important payment.

But you can get burned if you leave autopay on autopilot.

Capital One offers to monitor charges

To help you keep track of these items, Capital One is piloting Second Look, a new free service that it says helps customers identify unnoticed or potentially unwanted charges. It will soon be available to all Capital One credit card customers with no need to sign up.

The service flags potentially duplicate charges, auto-renewing subscriptions and increases in recurring charges that are commonly overlooked, such as when a customer is charged the same amount on the same day by the same merchant.

While many of these charges can easily be explained, sometimes customers have been charged twice for the same purchase.

Capital One says two out of three customers overlook potentially duplicate charges.

Second Look highlights these charges and emails an alert to the customer, which include instructions on how to question the charge, either by contacting the merchant directly or Capital One.

Second Look also monitors recurring charges, such as monthly utility bills, and sends an alert when there is an unexpected increase in the bill.

Auto-renewing subscriptions and memberships, including those known as “free-to-pay” services that begin charging after a free introductory trial period, also are flagged by Second Look.

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