How to get your money back when you never receive your items and the merchant disappears

You probably do a fair bit of shopping online if you’re like me. It’s convenient, there are usually good deals to be found, and you can avoid the crowds at the mall. But I’m always suspicious of websites that seem too good to be true. For example, they have unbelievable discounts on designer clothes, or they’re selling electronics for a fraction of the price you would find in stores. These websites look identical to legitimate ones, but scammers create them to steal your money.

But don’t worry! There is something you can do to get your money back. Please keep reading for my tips on how to get your money back after falling for a fake eCommerce website.

Merchant agreement

You’ve probably heard of a little something called the Federal Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule. This Rule requires merchants who sell goods through mail order or online to have a written agreement with their customers. This contract is called a “merchant agreement”. The merchant agrees to provide you with certain goods or services for your payment in this agreement. This agreement also says that if the customer isn’t happy with their purchase, they can return it within a certain period for a refund. 

The Rule also sets out specific shipping dates and delivery requirements and gives customers the right to cancel their order if they are not satisfied with the merchandise or the service. Any seller who solicits buyers with the intent of shipping goods must adhere to a reasonable timeline. By law, sellers must respect the delivery time they say or advertise on their website. For instance, if that time frame is long overdue, sellers still have 30 days from the date of purchase to get you your goods before you can ask for a full refund. And you are entitled to a FULL refund, not just a gift card or store credit.   

Coming to a mutual agreement

Suppose the seller cannot deliver on this promise due to factors outside their control, like delayed shipment. In that case, it’s crucial for both parties involved – the seller and buyer- to agree upon some other solution before things get ugly between them!

So, if you’re a merchant who sells goods through the mail or the internet, you’ll need to have this agreement in place. And if you’re a customer looking to return an item, this agreement will give you all the information you need on how to do that. 

But what happens if the merchant doesn’t hold up their end of the deal? For example, you never receive the items you paid for, and they refuse to issue a refund? That’s where chargebacks come in.

What is a chargeback, and why would you file for one?

A chargeback is when you ask your credit card company through a dispute claim to cancel a transaction and refund your money. You can think of it as a “reverse” transaction.

There are a few different reasons you might file a chargeback:

  • An unauthorized transaction on your card,
  • You were charged twice for the same transaction,
  • The amount charged was incorrect,
  • You do not recognize the charge,
  • You are still charged for a service, even though you canceled it,
  • You’ve never received the item you ordered, or maybe it was significantly different from the description on the website.

But the most common reason for chargebacks is fraud.

Unsure if your chargeback request is valid?

When you file a chargeback because of fraud, you’re essentially telling your credit card issuer that you didn’t make the purchase – instead, someone stole your credit card information and made the purchase without your knowledge.

Chargebacks can be a little bit tricky, but they’re definitely worth it if you’ve been scammed. I would recommend reading through your merchant agreement before you file a chargeback, just to make sure that you have a valid reason. And if you’re ever unsure, you can always contact your credit card company for more information. Also, take the time to ask them if they charge a fee if your chargeback request is ever invalid.

Policies vary from one credit issuer to another, but they pretty much all follow the same general reasoning which is, that you are currently in a dispute that can’t seem to be resolved between you and a merchant.

How does filing for a dispute and requesting a chargeback work?

Before filing a request with your credit card issuer, you have to try to resolve the issue with the merchant. Also, which is very important, you have to prove that you’ve tried to solve this issue yourself.

Assuming you are dealing with an actual merchant and not a scammer, you must keep and provide detailed notes of your communications. For example, the time and date of all phone calls and what is said serves as proof. If not, emails are much simpler and valid proof of communication attempts.

The first step is contacting your credit card company and letting them know you want to dispute a charge on your statement.

Calling to submit a dispute is just not enough!

You must submit your dispute in writing. If not, the creditor has no obligation to investigate the charges you wish to dispute. As a matter of fact, according to the FTC, to comply with consumer protection laws, you need to do the following:

Write a letter to the creditor at the address for “billing inquiries,” not the address for sending your payments. In your letter, include your name, address, account number, the dollar amount of the suspected error, and a description of the billing error such as:

  • The name of the merchant. 
  • A reference number.
  • Proof of attempts to communicate with the merchant to resolve the matter; and 
  • Anything else you might have related to the dispute.

Send your letter as soon as possible. The creditor must receive it within 60 days of the first bill that contained the error. You should send your letter by certified mail to prove that the creditor received it. Make sure to include copies (not originals) of sales slips or documents supporting your position. Keep a copy of your dispute letter for yourself.

Your credit card company will then open an investigation. First, they’ll contact the merchant and ask for proof that you made the purchase. Then, the merchant will have 20 days to respond to the chargeback. Still, if they don’t or can’t provide enough evidence, then the chargeback will be granted, and you’ll get your money back.

In the table below, you’ll find a few examples of dispute policies for 5 major credit card issuers in the US.

Credit card issuers’ chargeback policies

CreditorPolicySource
ChaseIn writing within 60 days

At least 3 business days before an automated payment is scheduled, if you want to stop payment on the amount you think is wrong.
Chase Bank USA
Wells FargoIn writing within 60 days

At least 3 business days before an automated payment is scheduled, if you want to stop payment on the amount you think is wrong.
Wells Fargo Bank
Capital OneCapital One does not specify the allotted time you dispose of to dispute a charge.

If Capital One credits your Account for all or part of a disputed transaction, you give them all of your rights against others regarding that transaction. You will also:
1 – give them any information about the disputed transaction,
if they ask;
2 – not pursue any claim or reimbursement of the transaction amount from the merchant or any other person; and
3 – help them get reimbursement from others.
Capital One Bank
American ExpressAmerican Express does not specify the allotted time you dispose of to dispute a charge.

If American Express credits your Account for all or part of a disputed transaction, you give them all of your rights against others regarding that transaction. You will also:
1 – give them any information about the disputed transaction,
if they ask;
2 – not pursue any claim or reimbursement of the transaction amount from the merchant or any other person; and
3 – help them get reimbursement from others.
American Express National Bank
DiscoverWithin 60 days after the error appeared on your statement.

By 5:00 P.M. ET on the date an automated payment is scheduled, if you want to stop payment on the amount you think is wrong. You must notify us of any potential errors in writing or electronically. You may call us, but if you do, we are not necessarily required to investigate any potential errors and you may have to pay the amount in question.
Discover Bank
Credit card issuers’ chargeback policies

Was your claim denied? There is still hope!

Typically, when you dispute a charge and the merchant is a scammer, the chargeback is applied quickly, and you get your money back. However, scammers sometimes fight back against chargebacks and might even succeed.

Disputing a credit card fraud charge can be frustrating, especially if your claim gets denied. But don’t give up just yet! You still have options.

Appealing the decision

Firstly, there is an appeal process that you have to follow to try to get your claim approved. Credit card issuers sometimes deny claims, but you have 10 days to do something about it.

Sometimes the issuer will tell you why the denial letter denied the claim. If not, you can call them or write a letter (or email) and ask for more information about the appeal process. You might also be able to find this information by logging in to your online banking portal.

Filing a complaint with the CFPB

Secondly, if your appeal gets denied, you can file a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB.)

The CFPB keeps track of complaints from consumers, and this information is available for anyone to see. In addition, companies that are the subject of complaints will get a copy. The idea behind this process is that these companies will fix the situation, change how they deal with consumers or have oversight from a third party like the CFPB.

I can hear you already, not again! Don’t worry. Submitting a complaint online takes less than 10 minutes.

If you file a complaint with the CFPB, they will send it to the company along with all related documents. The company then has 15 days to respond.

It’s time to implicate lawyers.

Finally, suppose all other attempts to overturn the creditor’s decision failed. In that case, you will have to take legal action to get your money back. This process is costly, so make sure it’s worth it.

You don’t have to go to court when lawyers get involved. However, most credit agreement policies have claims provisions detailing how all parties involved will resolve an issue. The options listed in policies are generally mediation, arbitration, and litigation.

Some options, like arbitration, will limit your ability to take further legal actions. Make sure to have your attorney review your policy agreement and take the time to explain these limitations carefully.

Get the help and support you need

VictimConnect resource center

This resource center is a referral helpline where ALL crime victims can learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately.

You may contact them via phone and text at 855-4-victim or via online chat Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm EST

Know your rights

You have rights imparted by federal and, in some cases, state law. Learn about your rights to better protect yourself.

For federal victim rights, the U.S. Department of Justice provides information on victim rights at https://www.justice.gov/usao/resources/crime-victims-rights-ombudsman.

For state victim rights, check with the state Attorney General, whose contact information is available at www.naag.org.

If you have tried to reach the seller and haven’t had any success, or if you think what you received wasn’t as described, it might be time to dispute the charge. Remember that your credit score can take a hit if there are too many disputes on your account, so make sure your request is valid before submitting it. And always submit your claims in writing. You can find more information about your rights and options in the policy agreement of your credit card company. Even if your claim is denied, don’t give up hope – sometimes there’s still a chance for a refund. Have you ever disputed a charge? What was the outcome? Let us know in the comments!

12 Responses

  1. José Consepcion Alonso Armendáriz says:

    Buen día para comentar compré un artículo en línea y todo bien tenía contacto sobre el envio y resultó que me yego otro artículo na que ver con lo que compre ya pedí información y nada

    • Akim says:

      Hola José, ¿has intentado contactar con ellos más de una vez? 2: ¿Han pasado 30 días desde que compraste el artículo? 3: ¿Compraste con tarjeta de crédito? 4: ¿Vives en los Estados Unidos o en otro país? Las leyes varían de un país a otro.

  2. Mandisa Kunene says:

    Ssloans and intellecom scammed me for a job

  3. Tracy says:

    Hi I would like some help ive been scammed by a company called unique garden

    • Akim Lanani says:

      Hello Tracy, sorry to hear that. We’ve had a few reports about Unique-Garden on https://www.scamwatcher.com/. You should go take a look at those reports. I know there are quite a few comments from other users who’ve come across that site and have also been defrauded. I’m sure if you ask for help there someone will surely answer you or you might even find a solution.

  4. I have recently been made aware of a fraudulent company jennion.com I made purchased 4 tires with them in April and gave ample time for delivery but as of July 12.2022 I still have not received any tires. Nor have I been able to receive any comments from the merchant.

    • Akim says:

      Have you paid by credit card? If so, you should give them a call and start looking at your options to dispute the charge.

  5. Christina says:

    I just want to know if Ajoything.us is a scam..I’m reading some say no and some say yes…smart business says the SSL is good and it’s been around for 3yrs..So I don’t know what to think..

  6. Tanja says:

    is this valid for EU countries also?
    Is it possible to have money refund by a bank / credit card company?

    thank you in advance,
    Tanja

  7. I was scammed by a company called Rarakara. I charged it on my Cash Back Signature Visa Card with my Silver State Schools Credit Union so I should call my bank?

  8. M A Salam says:

    I have been scummed by Keitomart om 20th July 2022 after purchased the Item no even repky ehen I emailed to them paid them via my visa account any help to get back my money I need this thanks

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