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Q: In Istanbul last year, I fell victim to a scam by some local thugs. They ran a "club" where they persuaded single male tourists to come in. Then, they coerced them into paying thousands of dollars for bogus drinks ("champagne" that was cider and water, for example). They made it impossible to leave without the threat of violence.

It was clear that the locals I had come with were working with the "club" to lure tourists in and bilk them. I played dumb, realizing I had no choice but to stay. There was one exit down a flight of stairs and a bouncer who made sure no one was leaving until they got their money.

They charged me on one Wells Fargo credit card and one Chase card. I eventually was able to leave and contacted both credit card companies. The police were aware of this fraudulent establishment and showed me mug shots of the owner, who I recognized. After I filed a police report, another tourist came in complaining of the same club — only he had tried to leave. They threw him down the stairs.

Chase reversed the charges immediately, but Wells Fargo allowed every charge to go through. I contacted Wells Fargo's fraud department and sent them the police report. Weeks later, they informed me that this could not be handled as fraud. They said they had transferred the problem to Disputes. Disputes told me it was being handled by the Fraud department. Fraud sent it back to Disputes.

Wells Fargo has dragged its feet for almost three months. The $7,853 charge has left me extremely stressed out about my finances. Can you help?

A: Wells Fargo should have quickly refunded your money. Wait, scratch that — it should have never charged your credit card.

Why? Well, $8,000 at a bar in Istanbul should have triggered its fraud detection algorithms. Wells Fargo's algorithms are highly sensitive in my experience, and it should have flagged a charge of this size quickly.

What happened? Wells Fargo has one department for fraud and the another for chargebacks. Neither department wanted to handle your charge, so they were going back and forth. Meanwhile, you refused to pay your credit card bill, so the dispute started to affect your credit report.

Wells Fargo's credit cards have a "Zero Liability" protection and say you won't be held responsible for any promptly reported unauthorized card transactions. Clearly, the charges to your card were made without your authorization.

I contacted Wells Fargo on your behalf. It reversed your charges and also helped you clear up the problem with your credit score.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer organization. Contact him at or