Toronto

Furious seniors 'so upset with Walmart' after $4K in stolen credit card charges

Even after filing a police report and spending hours on the phone with Walmart customer service, Hassan Gerami, 77, and Maliheh Banej Shafiei, 72, still owe more than $4,000 on their Walmart Rewards Mastercard.

Walmart says the issue has now been resolved

Hassan Gerami, 77, and Maliheh Banej Shafiei, 72, still owe more than $4,000 on their Walmart Rewards Mastercard. (Sue Reid/CBC)

A Toronto-area couple is vowing never to shop at Walmart again after a thief stole their credit card and racked up thousands of dollars in purchases.

Even after filing a police report and spending hours on the phone with Walmart customer service, Hassan Gerami, 77, and Maliheh Banej Shafiei, 72, still owed more than $4,000 on their Walmart Rewards Mastercard.

"I am so upset with Walmart," Banej Shafiei told CBC Toronto.

The amount includes a $29 fee the couple was charged because whoever stole the card went over its $3,500 limit.

Walmart has said it has spoken with the couple and is in contact with the company that issued their card, but with payment on their card statement due on Monday, frustration boiled over for the residents of Richmond Hill, about 37 kilometres north of Toronto.

"I say to all the people: don't buy or shop in Walmart," Banej Shafiei said.

On Friday, shortly after CBC Toronto reported on the couple's ordeal, a spokesperson for Walmart Canada said the issue was resolved. The couple confirmed the company had agreed to reverse the charges within 48 hours — bringing to an end their nearly month-long struggle.

Card stolen at Richmond Hill Walmart

The ordeal began on Nov. 14. After spending about half an hour shopping at the Walmart Supercentre on Major Mackenzie Drive, Banej Shafiei says she got to the register and realized her wallet was missing. 

From there, the pair quickly reported the credit card stolen. They filed a police report.

At first, it seemed the damage wasn't that bad. After spending about an hour on the phone with Walmart Mastercard customer service, Germani was told the card was only used once for a charge of $258.

But about a week later, their credit card statement arrived in the mail.

"I received the monthly bill and I was really shocked because I was charged $4,117," Gerami said.

This is the Richmond Hill, Ont. Walmart where Hassan Gerami and Maliheh Banej Shafiei say their Walmart Rewards Mastercard was stolen. It was then used for 16 separate transactions at the same store. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Whoever stole the card managed to make 16 purchases, all at Walmart. The card's tap function was used so no PIN number or signature was required.

"Tapping one after another. They cannot stop these people," Gerami said. "It is shocking and it is not safe for elderly people to use Walmart Rewards Mastercard."

Customer service concerns

Since getting the statement, the couple tried desperately to get the charges cancelled.

They sent the police report to the company. It had to be faxed to Walmart, which required Gerami to make two trips to a Staples store because he says Walmart provided the wrong fax number.

And they've spent hours on the phone with Walmart Mastercard customer service. But they said it was difficult to get solutions or useful information and they felt they were mostly being read scripts by call centre operators.

"When you go on the phone with Walmart Rewards Mastercard, they keep you on the phone. It goes on the music, and it goes on other stuff," Gerami said.

"And then they disconnect. They don't give us right answer.".

At the time, a spokesperson for Walmart Canada told CBC Toronto that the company was aware of the issue and had spoken with Gerami and Banej Shafiei. In an email, the spokesperson said the credit card was issued by Fairstone and that Walmart was in touch with the financial provider.

Seniors advocate surprised

Bill VanGorder, with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), says he's surprised at how long the couple's situation took to get resolved and that credit cards are usually quick to cancel fraudulent purchases.

"I've never heard of a credit card company not standing behind this if the individuals did everything they could to protect their card."

Bill VanGorder, the chief operating officer and chief policy officer of CARP, says he's 'never heard of a credit card company not standing behind this if the individuals did everything they could to protect their card.' (CARP)

VanGorder says several years ago, CARP raised concerns to credit card companies about the security risks and lack of consumer protection with the tap function on cards. He says they were told, in these cases, victims of theft or fraud would not have to pay.

"We were told very strongly, that if your card gets stolen through no fault of your own and gets used, they will stand behind it and that's the protection."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español. trevor.dunn@cbc.ca

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