What's This Surprise Charge on My Capital One Card?

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Marie Levine finds a mystery charge on her Capital One credit card. Why won't anyone help her remove it?

Question: I have had an ongoing dispute with Lord & Taylor for a charge on my bill going back to last June. The charge was attributed to a branch store in which I have never shopped.

I have asked my credit card, Capital One, for help determining what the charge is related to. I have documentation that I have been calling every two weeks since September, and each time the standard answer I receive is, "We have submitted the request for a copy of your receipt."

I do not understand the incompetence of this international company, that they can't respond to this simple request. Please help!

I just want to find out what the charge is. If it's for something legitimate that a family member ordered, then I will have resolution. If it's not, then I need to file a fraud claim. -- Marie Levine, West Hartford, Conn.

Answer: Both the department store and your credit card company should be able to promptly explain the charge. Many businesses routinely offer detailed information about a transaction -- referred to as "level 2" or "level 3" data -- as part of your purchase. Their inability to do so should have been a red flag.

Another warning sign: You didn't recognize the store. If you didn't use your credit card in that store, it's probably fraudulent.

I'm surprised by your patience. You kept calling every two weeks. Remember, you have only 60 days to dispute a charge on your credit card under the Fair Credit Billing Act. After that, the law won't protect you.

I think it's fine to call Capital One, but I would have followed up with an email. You can get in touch through its website. Ideally, you want a written assurance that it's looking into the problem, not a verbal promise. (Remember, email addresses at Capital One use the format firstname.lastname@capitalone.com, so emailing an executive is not difficult.)

I love the resolution on this case. Our advocacy team offered you a little support plus a few tips on how to fix your problem, and you resolved this all by yourself.

You managed to convince a representative to give you a dedicated fax number for Lord & Taylor billing questions. After you sent your query, you received a polite phone call from Capital One, saying that it had no idea what the charge was for, and agreeing to remove it.

A few days later, Lord & Taylor explained the purchase. "They were bathing suits that I ordered in my store, and apparently were shipped from the other store, not a Lord & Taylor main distributing center," you told me. Of course, you agreed to pay for them. Surprisingly, Capital One and Lord & Taylor agreed to let you keep the money.

Way to advocate your own case!

Christopher Elliott specializes in solving intractable consumer problems. Contact him with your questions on his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google or sign up for his newsletter.