It’s about time I shared the rest of the story with you…
If you still haven’t read part I, you will find it HERE.
Ok, back to the crazy story.
In the hostel I already was wondering whether I should block my cards (both debit and credit). Everyone advised me not to. Why should I? They haven’t been stolen, right? So what else could happen?
Yeah… always trust your own guts! That one time I didn’t.
I came back home. Disgusted with what happened in Madrid (and I don’t think I’ll ever go back there to be honest). In the end, it was just some money that was missing after all. Life continued.
I remember that Friday evening very well… It was one week after I came back from Madrid. My flatmates went for a party. I stayed home, feeling like watching movies and just staying in bed. When the movie was over, I remembered to pay for a small thing from my credit card. I opened my online bank account and… to my surprise… it was showing I had to transfer around 1,000 EUR to my bank. I was like… WHAT? It was a frigging mistake! I double checked. I thought it was a bad dream. I saw a couple of transactions I hadn’t made. It was clear: someone had been using my credit card!
I called my bank and blocked the card immediately. I asked them to tell me what had been going on. The call center guy enumerated several transactions billed during that week (I hadn’t been using the card since then so it was obvious to me what was going on). I told him that none of those were mine so we raised a complaint. I was shocked. And no, I didn’t stay cool-headed. I was super angry and nervous. I was angry with myself. Why the heck hadn’t I blocked the card while I could, back then? The call center guy wasn’t helpful either. He did not advise anything. I wasn’t able to think that night…
I checked those transactions. There were 7 or 8 of them. Mostly iTunes. IP from different European countries (great!). But one was special. It was Air France. With some long number. So what I did next was to open Air France website. I saw a blank field for “e-ticket” so I pasted the long number.
There he was. Mr. XYZ. Going to frigging Dominicana. Berlin-Paris-Punta Cana. For 6 months. For my money.
I went totally MAD! It was like… how is it even possible?? No, I didn’t know the guy. I googled him. Found his FB account (but frankly, not sure if there is only one Mr. XYZ). I’ve never seen this guy before. Never heard of him. But looked like he knew ME. He had my credit card details, my personal id… GREAT!
Guess what? The guy was flying on that day at 2pm from Berlin! I still had a couple of hours to take action. Whatever it meant. I wanted to do something. But hey, it was 2am… I opened the reservation. I saw his e-mail, his telephone number… He wasn’t checked in for the flight. I called my bank again (24 hrs service). They couldn’t help me. They said I could raise a complaint. Awesome.
I tried to call Air France. Forget it. No hotline. Customer service Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. Great 🙂 Love you, AF!
So I decided to take some rest and start acting in the morning.
I checked Mr. XYZ’s reservation first thing in the morning. Aww, he had checked in for his pleasant flight. So I checked him out! (At least this is what I could do! Trolololo!)
I called VISA, the issuer of my credit card. A lady from Philippines on the phone. Her English was very poor. First, she didn’t understand my problem. Second, I didn’t understand her. My frustration went from 10 to 100. No, they couldn’t help me either. She told me to call my bank. Sweet…
I checked my bank account. Guess what. Even more transactions from iTunes appeared. I called the bank again. Another person from the call center. The same story I had to share. Again. “We can raise a complaint”, the lady said. “Yeah, let’s do it”, I replied, totally in despair.
I wasn’t able to contact Air France. Just no possibilities to do it during the weekend. It was Saturday. Mr. XYZ was flying in a couple of hours. I called the TEGEL airport in Berlin. I explained the situation and asked them to connect me with someone from Air France. Not possible. BUT. They could contact me with the border police. So I did. Luckily, I found someone who spoke English. I guess he was the only person speaking English there. I explained the whole situation. The policeman was very nice. He listened carefully and promised to check that. He would call me back in 1 hour (it was the time when the plane was supposed to take off).
I was waiting. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t expecting him to call me back. I wanted to do it myself at 2:30pm.
2:30pm. The policeman is calling me back. Wow, that German precision! 😉
Well, they spoke with the guy. He was indeed planning to fly to Punta Cana. But it was Patrycja Maria who bought him the tickets!
And you should have seen my face!
“But I don’t know the guy! Never heard of him before! I’m telling you my credit card number was stolen and it’s blocked now”, I explained.
“Okay, I understand. He mentioned he was indeed in Madrid a week ago… He’s a citizen of Mogadishu and currently lives in the Netherlands. We have to ask him more questions, would you please write everything in an email and send it to us? We will know what to ask him. Also, add screenshots from your bank account of those transactions.”
“Of course I will, in a second. And I repeat: I do not know that person.”
Can you imagine? So he was in Madrid when I was there. Living in Holland… Hmm, the citizen of the world apparently! And no, he didn’t fly to Dominicana. I stopped him. Actually no. The police stopped him. I wish I could see his face! Heading to the plane with his Ray Ban glasses and flip flops, ready to hit the tropics. And suddenly, wait! Police coming to pick him up. IN YOUR FACE!
You know what?
I didn’t tell you how powerless I felt when I discovered that no one could help me. I was the only one to fight with my problem. VISA didn’t care, my bank didn’t care either, Air France was unavailble during the weekend. It could have happened to YOU, too! When such a thing happens, you realize that you have to be strong and act. Act quickly. Because you might loose the opportunity very fast.
I was lucky I didn’t go for a party on that Friday evening. I was lucky to be smart enough to realize what that long number was and do the research on my own on the AF website. I was lucky I finally found someone who could help me: Mr Mattias, the policeman from the Tegel airport.
My money was stolen. It was just money, you may say. No, it wasn’t “just money”. First of all, I had worked hard to earn that money and it was quite a big sum for me. Secondly, I realized I was all alone in my battle. In the world which is a global village, where everything is digitalized and super well controlled. In the world, where the thieves live their perfect lives! For me, it was a matter of honor! Even if I didn’t receive my money back (the bank was making some problems later on…), I wanted to make sure Mr. XYZ would never fly to Dominicana. Even if he was not punished by law (not sure what happened with him, as the border police stopped answering my emails and my phone calls), he was punished by me. I showed him that he was not free to do whatever he wanted! That he could be stopped. And that one day, he will be punished for his culpable behaviour. I think I made my point.
For the money itself: I received 90% back after several months. There were many smaller transactions billed on my account (appearing 1-2 weeks after I have blocked my credit card) and it is difficult to track everything when you are arranging things on the phone with your bank with several different call center people. No, my bank do not operate face to face. I had to call them each time. They were giving me long numbers of complaints raised to note them down somewhere. The emails from them didn’t contain any details of those complaints. Everyone could get lost. Even such an organized person as I am. I guess, all this for a specific reason 😉 I asked them if I should be paying back all that amount (that was stolen from my credit account) and raise a complaint for the bank to refund it later to me. No, they told me not to pay. They told me to raise a complaint and wait up to 180 days 😀 And later, raise a complaint for the interest that would have been charged. Of course 🙂 Sweet!
And you think I listened to them? I paid the due amount straight away and waited for the bank to make a refund. It was the best decision I could make. Believe me.
Such a pity I didn’t know about chargebacks back then! I could have received that money without any problem! They just took advantage of my lack of knowledge…
I went to the police here, in Poland. The policeman writing the report couldn’t believe his ears. He said it sounded like a movie screenplay. According to him, the group was international and was dealing with the credit card numbers globally. He mentioned it would be really hard to get them and he was not even sure anyone would like to start chasing them…
The court (in Poland) rejected my complaint. No proofs, they said. Even Mr. XYZ’s name and personal details I had (I have screenshots) were not enough for them to start dealing with that situation. I raised another complaint saying I had everything to make that work. One judge was in favor, she wanted to pursue the case. In the end, they closed it. No proofs. Case too broad. Whatever.
The bottom line is, trust your own guts 🙂 And keep positive, whatever you do! 🙂
Have a great weekend, everybody!