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Conversations with a fraud specialist

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: Hello, ma'am.

Stacey Vanek Smith: Hi, how are you?

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: There were some false charges on your card?

Vanek Smith: Yes, that's right.

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: OK, I'm going to go through the previous week of charges with you to make sure that everything is legitimate. I'll read off the charges and you just tell me "yes" if the charge was yours or "no" if it wasn't.

Vanek Smith: OK... Well, I was on vacation the week before, so there are probably some weird charges.

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: I'm showing a $750 charge at a Hotel Tiz...ano in Rome on March 20.

Vanek Smith: Yes! Yes! It's a hotel in Rome and I was actually there for five days. The location was actually really amazing and breakfast was included.

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: I'm also showing a $200 charge at Leather World on March 21. And another $200 charge also at Leather World also on the 21st.

Vanek Smith: Oh wow. Right. So that must sound so strange, but it's a shoe store. Just normal shoes. Not... Italy they don't understand how creepy that sounds. I mean, not creepy, but just like some weird sex store... which it wasn't! I mean it was not that. It was just a shoe store.

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: I'm showing a $20 charge to iTunes, also on the 21st.

Vanek Smith: Oh right. I bought "Gladiator" and "Eat Pray Love." Oh my God, you must think I have the worst taste ever! I was going to see the Coliseum and I figured that I should watch "Gladiator." Not that I think that movie is accurate at all! I was a comparative literature major in college and I have read real books about ancient Rome. I just thought it would be fun to see what the Coliseum might have looked like. And that's the reason I bought "Eat Pray Love," too. I just kinda wanted to see the shots of Italy in a fun way... I would never read that book.

Specialist sighs

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: A $15 charge at Tutti Gelati on the 23rd.

Vanek Smith: Yes.

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: A $20 charge at Tutti Gelati, also on the 23rd.

Vanek Smith: God, that probably totally looks like fraud, right? Because who eats $35 worth of gelato in one day? But you have to try this gelato! I'm sorry, what is your name?

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: Alice.

Vanek Smith: Can I just level with you, Alice? I was just in kind of a weird place. I mean, I had always wanted to go to Italy, but I always thought I would go there on my honeymoon or something. But then all of the sudden, I was like, "Holy crap, I'm 35 and maybe I'm never going to get married!" I don't want to put that weird negative energy out there -- and I'm not one of those crazy obsessed women. But it crosses my mind, because trying to date in your mid-30s it sort of feels like everyone seems to see you as some kind of ticking fertility time bomb. Which I know is insane, because there's so much they can do these days. Not that I want to be one of those people who want to have babies when they're 50. But anyway, I can have kids on my own, right? I mean, it's not ideal, but it's possible!

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: An $80 charge at Leather World on the 24th?

Vanek Smith: Oh right, yes, I...

Wells Fargo Fraud Specialist: OK, ma'am, those are all of the charges in question. We'll be sending you an affidavit through the mail. You'll need to sign that and send it back to us. Please feel free to call us if you have any more questions.

Vanek Smith: So, Alice... where are you based? Are you near New York? Maybe we could meet for coffee ... or gelato?


Hill: Stacey was joined by Michelle Phillippe, channeling her inner-customer-service-rep. You can read more of Stacey's conversation -- that was the edited version -- on the Awl.com.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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