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Q. Back in May, three fraudulent charges showed on our HSBC card. They were from Walmart.com. My husband immediately contacted HSBC as well as Walmart.com and subsequently, two of the charges have been refunded to our card. We've been going back and forth for months about this. At this point, Walmart.com says there isn't anything they can do and HSBC says that it's past their period for dealing with fraudulent claims. The person I spoke to at Walmart.com today told me that basically, HSBC sided with them and that is why that third charge was charged back to us.

HSBC even went as far as to tell us where the purchases were shipped (they were laptops) -- the name and address -- but of course, it's not someone that we know. What I don't understand, above all, is why they would believe that two of the three charges were fraudulent but not the third charge. This is a small amount of money (less than $300), but it just doesn't seem right that we have to pay so that we don't get sent to collections. Is there anything we can do?
Stephanie Lasser

A. Hi Stephanie, this seemed strange to me, too, so I reached out to HSBC. Generally, when something like this happens, you want to contact the credit card issuer. They looked into it and, while they wouldn't discuss exactly what happened with me because of privacy restrictions, they found that "some of the details in this situation caused a delay, and the matter has now been resolved in the customer's favor," says Robert Sherman, a company spokesperson. Someone from customer service should be contacting you to reverse the charges, if they haven't already.

As far as what you – or anyone – might be able to do about this in the future, the best defense, as they say, is a good offense. If you notice a charge on your account that seems incorrect or fraudulent, you should immediately contact the card issuer. You'll likely be asked to submit some documentation – your original receipt, if it's the amount of the charge that was wrong, or a request in writing that the charges be investigated, if you think they're fraudulent – and you should do that right away by certified mail. Keep a paper trail, including records of who you talk to and when, as well as copies of back up documentation you submitted. Then, stay on top of things, calling and checking in on the status of your case every day or every other day, because as you learned, credit card rules do include deadlines for this sort of thing, and you want to make sure you stay within the time frame allotted.

Consumer Ally problem solver Jean Chatzky is the "Today Show" financial adviser, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.

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