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To Get A Nice Customer Once A Day Is Surprising, But Two…?

, , , , , , | Right | April 28, 2022

My first job was working at a call center doing fraud protection. I got a call from our customer service team asking to transfer a call one day.

Customer Service: “I think someone took over the customer’s account. Her address and phone are correct, but someone else’s social security number is on the account and there were charges in a completely different state than she lives in that she didn’t make.”

Me: “Yeah, this doesn’t seem like regular fraud, but something odd is happening. Go ahead and transfer her and I’ll see what I can do.”

After being transferred, I went through the preliminaries, validating the customer’s identity, confirming which charges she didn’t make, etc. I could have just closed the account as fraudulent and let another department figure it out, but there were too many things that didn’t add up, so I decided that, rather than having her go back and forth with our other department when they insisted this wasn’t fraudulent, I’d try to figure it out now and save her some hassle. My only concern was whether the customer would either yell at me or freak out if I implied this wasn’t actually fraud, so I was very paranoid about saying the wrong thing and angering her.

Me: “Well, ma’am, I understand that you didn’t make these charges, and I assure you that we will not charge you for anything you didn’t do. However, this doesn’t look like your usual fraudulent activity. People taking over accounts want to put your social on accounts they made; putting their social on your account wouldn’t make any sense. And usually, someone taking over an account will buy gift cards or expensive electronics, not maternity wear, and they would usually spend far more than was spent here. We still won’t charge you if you didn’t make the purchases, but if you are willing to bear with me for a little while longer, I’d like to try to figure out what happened here so we can get everything resolved correctly without their having to contact you for more information later. Would that be okay?”

Customer: “Oh, sure, that’s fine. What do you need?”

Me: “First, I’d like to get your social security number fixed on this account. Could I get your proper social please?”

After correcting her social, I asked a few questions and dug around for a bit trying to deduce what had happened. All the while, I kept assuring her that we wouldn’t charge her for anything, and she was very polite about it. Eventually, on a whim, I tried to check the old social security number and was surprised to find out that it was a valid social. I’ve never run into a mistyped social security number that was actually valid before.

Me: “Okay, ma’am, I may have a guess what happened here. I’ll just need a few more minutes to check some things in my system if you don’t mind staying on the line.”

Customer: “Sure, go ahead.”

I pulled up some accounts and verified that my suspicion was likely.

Me: “Okay, ma’am, I suspect I know what happened here. I believe I know who made those purchases, and I don’t think they were intentionally trying to steal your account. We will still get the charges removed, but if I can verify my suspicions, we should be able to do it without having to close your account or have you fill out any additional paperwork for us.”

Customer: “That’s good, but how did the charges get on my account, then?”

I was actually hoping she wouldn’t ask this, as I didn’t want to explain the many levels of screw-up on our part required for my suspicion to have happened, but since she asked, I had to answer.

Me: “Well, the social security number on the account was very close to your own. I think the representative who helped you open the account must have accidentally transposed some digits when she put in the request. However, by pure chance, the mistyped social happens to have been a valid social security number belonging to another customer of ours, one that lives in the same state the purchases were made in. I believe she was trying to make a purchase on her card, and it was accidentally placed on your card by mistake.”

Customer: “But how would that happen? She doesn’t have my card, does she?”

Me: “No, ma’am. The charges were all done electronically. If you want to make a purchase at our store and don’t have your card present, it’s possible for a representative to do an account lookup for you so you can still make a purchase using your card. I believe they were trying to do that, but since your account still had the other women’s social security number on it, they accidentally looked your card up instead of hers. I’m really sorry that this all happened.”

Customer: “Oh, I guess that makes sense. But how do I get the charges removed?”

Me: “The easiest way would be if we can get the woman to confirm she made these charges, so I’d like to try to contact her. If she does agree, they should be able to transfer them back to her card without any problem. But I’d have to get hold of her first. I’ll try calling her as soon as I get off the phone with you, but it may be a day or so before we manage to reach her. If it’s okay with you, I’ll leave a note asking them to call you back and let you know what happened once we get ahold of the other woman. In the meantime, your card is still open and can be used. I’ve fixed your social so this won’t happen again. You don’t need to make any payment for the things you didn’t purchase; any kind of late fee or interest caused by the purchases last week will be removed from your card when the charges are transferred.”

Customer: “Oh, okay. Just let me know what happens, I guess?”

After some more polite apologies from me, the customer hung up. I called the other woman.

Me: “Hello, I’m calling from the [Company] fraud department. Is [Callee] available?”

Callee: “That’s me. Is something wrong?”

This is where things got awkward. I’m not allowed to discuss someone else’s account with a stranger, so even though I strongly suspected this woman was the one that actually made the purchases, I was not allowed to directly discuss them.

Me: “Nothing is wrong. I just wanted to determine if you had recently made a purchase at one of our stores?”

Callee: “Oh, you mean for clothing? Yeah, the representative tried to look up my account but somehow she got someone else’s account. We were trying to get it fixed but weren’t sure if it was or not.”

Here I gave a sigh of relief. Her coming out and admitting all this saved me a lot of difficulties trying to confirm charges I couldn’t even reference.

Me: “Ah, yes, that is what this is about. It caused us a bit of confusion here, but I figured that was what happened. I’ve fixed the issue that caused them to look up the wrong account, so it won’t happen again. I assume we have your permission to transfer the charges back to your card?”

Callee: “Yes, of course. Sorry to cause trouble.”

Me: “No, no, this wasn’t your fault. We screwed up by letting this be possible, but I promise we’ve fixed the problem. I’m going to try to get this sorted out for you, but since the transfer is going to have to be done by another department, there is a chance someone from that department may need to contact you to get approval to do the transfer.”

Again, the woman was polite and agreed to everything. I thoroughly notated both accounts explaining what happened and passed it over to the department that could transfer the charges. Then, I called back the first woman and let her know everything was sorted out. She actually thanked me for sorting everything out!

Most customers being interrogated for fifteen minutes about charges they didn’t make, only to find out numerous mistakes were made to have them show up on your account at all, would have been a recipe for my getting screamed at, but in this case, both women were polite, courteous, and understanding. I was shocked at my good fortune to have gotten away without a verbal lashing.

Thank you, customers, for being so understanding!

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