Chicago small business owner says ghost merchant charged over $40K to his Chase credit card

ByAnn Pistone and Jason Knowles WLS logo
Tuesday, July 2, 2024
Small business owner says ghost vendor charged over $40K to Chase card
A Chicago small business owner had to battle the Chase credit card fraud department over $40K in sham charges he believes came from a ghost vendor.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A small Chicago housing development business was in a big battle with its bank over more than $40,000 in fraudulent charges. The owner believes they were from a ghost merchant.

Jeff Benach's fraud fight started shortly after his company, Lexington Homes in Lincoln Park, ordered renderings.

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"I wanted to do an overview of what the community would look like when it's done from a birds eye perspective," he said.

The developer hired a Canadian company, but their renderings didn't meet his expectations. He canceled the order and said he offered to pay them for their work, but he never heard back. Instead, he said he started seeing large charges on his Chase credit card with a different company name based in the same Canadian city.

"This is the fake invoice," Benach said. "This is what they sent to Chase."

He believes someone fraudulently used the existing vendor accounts to set up fake invoices. The ghost merchant charged Benach's Chase account more than $40,000. It's unclear how the ghost company got his credit card information.

"We don't even do midrise buildings," he said, looking at the renderings the ghost merchant sent him.

Benach filed a complaint with Chase fraud, but the fraudsters were ahead of him.

"They doctored up emails from my assistant. They doctored it up to look like we had this nice exchange, back and forth, ordering all of these things," he said.

Benach said he even contacted the original vendor, who said they did not charge him. But Chase sent Benach a letter saying they closed his case saying the transaction was valid, and that "the transaction will remain."

Getting his attorney involved didn't help either, so Benach contacted the I-Team. Days later, he received a call from Chase.

"We've looked into all of this, and we found out yes, you are right," Benach said, summing up Chase's letter. "You didn't make these charges and we're going to credit it all back."

Chase told the I-Team, "We had to sort through some inconsistencies from the merchant, as well as in the documentation that had led us to initially validate the transactions. We regret the delay, but are glad to have this resolved in our customer's favor."

Benach was thrilled to get his money back.

This is a reminder, whether you're a business or a consumer, you should be monitoring your charges on your account online. Dispute any suspicious charges immediately. You should also set up text or push alerts for large transaction amounts.