In Your Corner: Woman Defrauded While Battling Cancer

By Ryan Elijah

July 8, 2010 Updated Jul 8, 2010 at 4:49 PM EDT

Marie Strunk hadn't used her credit card in months, so she was stunned to see a charge for $148 dollars on her statement. What was even more surprising was the date of the transaction, March 22nd, right in the middle of the time she was hospitalized for cancer treatment last year.

"I thought, what is this I hadn't used my card? Somebody cheated me, somebody defrauded me", said Marie Strunk.

When her health improved weeks later, Marie contacted the credit card company to dispute the charges, but she was told the case had been reviewed and the charges were considered valid, she's been assessed late fees every since bringing her debt to over 400 dollars.

"whatever I would say, they wouldn't' believe me, they never did respond when I sent my hospital records", said Marie.

We found that a little surprising when we compared the signatures the company sent Marie. The signature on the receipt did not resemble Marie's at all. Since several months had passed since the purchase, we weren't able to get security video from the store. We contacted Marie's bank, one of the largest in the U.S., who quickly expedited the case to a resolution manager. But Marie had one more unpleasant surprise waiting for her when a collection agency called demanding she pay up.

"they told me I would need an attorney and would have to pay thousands, I said No, I don't owe it"

That call came from Valentine and Kebartas, a collections agency with an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. When we called them to inquire about their collection methods, the manager did the same thing she did with Marie... She hung up. They then had the nerve to call Marie and tell her to never complain to the media about them again.

It turns out she won't have to, the bank almost immediately informed her that they've determined the charge wasn't hers and they've told the collections agency to stop calling. For Marie it's some relief that she waited way too long for.

Marie said, "I waited almost a year for this and when you shined your light, they reacted. I am so grateful"

We chose not to name the bank, primarily because due to Marie's health, they weren't even aware of the problem until nearly 60 days after the charges occurred and because they acted swiftly when we brought the issue to their attention.

The bank said it's important that customers dispute a charge as early as possible, certainly within 60 days of the charge. They say customers receive an immediate credit when they have a disputed charge. While all financial institutions have a system in place to handle disputes, there are certainly times when a victim like Marie falls through the cracks, we're glad that our "light" as Marie put it, was able to erase an unfair burden.

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