Help me with these fraudulent charges on my card. Citi won’t.

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By Christopher Elliott

After reporting several fraudulent charges on her Costco Citi Card, Jeanne Vaul gets a new card. But Citi won’t reverse the fake charges. What’s going on?


I need your help with several fraudulent charges on my Costco Citi Card. I reported the charges as soon as I saw them. Citi locked the card and sent me a new one. But when I tried to activate the new card, I received a message that someone had already used the new card. 

I reported the problem to Citi. It locked the new card and sent me another one. The second card didn’t work either. The third card worked — except that the charges for $613 were still on the bill. 

 My husband handled the dispute by phone, so there is no paper trail. We received a denial and immediately appealed. We have not heard back from Citi yet. We’d like to receive credit for the fraudulent charges. Can you help us? — Jeanne Vaul, Williamsburg, Va.


The fraudulent charges were obviously not yours. Whoever stole your card went on a spending spree, ordering pay-per-view and takeout meals. A halfway-skilled investigator could have figured out that these weren’t your charges with a simple phone call — or by looking at your previous spending patterns.

It’s far more likely that there was some kind of electronic hiccup when you asked for a replacement card. And I think I know what happened. I’ll tell you in a minute.

You did the right thing by disputing your credit card bill immediately. I outline the correct steps for a chargeback in my guide to credit card disputes. I also have executive contacts at Citibank that you could have used. (Related: Is it safe to buy travel through Costco?)

Here’s what went wrong with this Citi credit card dispute

So what went wrong? In your denial letter, Citi says, “We previously reached out to you regarding your disputes, but since we didn’t receive the information we needed, we had to continue our investigation with the information we had available. Unfortunately, this information wasn’t sufficient to resolve the dispute in your favor and your dispute has been closed.”

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But you did not receive any inquiry from Citi. You say you spoke with the bank several times by phone, but no one mentioned a problem with your dispute. 

Citi should have made a better effort to reach out to you and get the information it needed to complete your chargeback. If I had to guess, I would say it handed your dispute to an AI, which may have neglected to send you an email or letter asking for the additional information. It may have also been behind those non-working replacement cards. (Related: Is your credit card safe at cruising altitude?)

Why do I think it’s an AI? If you’ve spent any amount of time talking to an AI, you know that it easily forgets facts that you give it.

My advice: During a credit card dispute, keep all of your correspondence in writing. Don’t do anything over the phone, since there will be no written record of the conversation. 

You reached out to my advocacy team and I contacted Citi on your behalf. You finally received an email from the bank and provided it with the information it needed to process your refund. Citi refunded you in full for the fraudulent purchases.

About this story

Credit card disputes are so automated these days that cases like this are inevitable. Our advocacy team has been receiving a lot of similar problems from our readers. If anything, they’re a reminder that you can’t take humans out of the customer-service equation — at least, not yet. This story was researched by Christopher Elliott and Dwayne Coward, written and fact-checked by Christopher Elliott, edited by Andy Smith and his team and illustrated by Dustin Elliott. If you have a credit card dispute case that seems hopeless, please let my team know. We’re happy to help.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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