What to do if you're charged for something you didn't order

Contact your card issuer if merchant refuses to make a refund

Your Business Credit columnist Elaine Pofeldt
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of 200kfreelancer.com, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for CreditCards.com.

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Question Dear Your Business Credit,
A merchant sent me a camera without my authorization and charged me. I sent the camera back to store, but the store refused to receive it. I left the camera there and took a photo and video to prove I left it in the store. Now the merchant refused to refund my money and claims it did not receive the camera. I did not authorize the charge and sent the camera back. Is that legal for them to still charge me? – Fang

Answer Dear Fang,
Hmmm. This situation is very puzzling.

It’s not clear from your note how the merchant came to send you the camera without your authorization. From an outsider’s perspective, it doesn’t sound likely that a merchant would send a complete stranger an expensive item such as a camera without having some prior interaction. At the same time, it’s not very probable that someone would order a camera without realizing it. A camera is not a product like, say, nutritional supplements that consumers sometimes put on autoship without noticing they have signed an agreement to do so.

This doesn’t sound like a case of identity theft, given that the camera was actually delivered to you – and not another address. I am wondering if someone else in your family who had access to your credit card placed the order without your knowledge.

Without knowing exactly what type of interaction you had with the merchant prior to the camera’s shipment, it is hard to determine if you or a family member somehow inadvertently ordered the camera, without realizing it and may be responsible for the charge. If you did have some interaction with the merchant – perhaps to purchase something else – look back at any paperwork you signed to see if there is any mention of the camera in the fine print. I would also ask family members if they used your card to order the camera but forgot to mention it.

It is also unclear what happened when you returned the camera. You say you sent the camera to the store, which sounds as if you mailed it or delivered it. Then you say you left the camera there and took a photo and video of this. Were these on two separate occasions? If you sent the camera back somehow, I am not quite picturing how you happened to be at the store at the moment of delivery to take this footage.

So what do you do now? What I recommend is to contact your credit card issuer and explain that you did not authorize this charge and that your attempt to return the camera was refused. If you have proof, such as a receipt from a shipping company showing you sent the camera back, having it handy would be helpful. The credit card issuer will very likely put the charge on hold and investigate what happened. If the credit card issuer believes the merchant wrongly sent you the camera, it will require the merchant to provide proof this was a legitimate charge and if not, issue a chargeback. Good luck!

See related: Six steps to getting a credit card chargeback, How to dispute a credit card bill with a merchant

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Updated: 03-24-2019