CHICAGO (CBS) — When you’re a victim of fraud, it’s frustrating to wait for your bank or credit card company to refund your money.

But for millions of Americans who get their Social Security benefits on prepaid debit cards, the wait can mean unpaid rent or no medicine. Or in the case of one Chicago woman, no heat on a cold winter day.

CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker went looking for answers.

Life is tough right now for Doris King. She walks around her home in a coat and scarf.

“Anybody who goes through this, it’s nerve wracking. It’s depressing. It makes you want to give up on life,” said King. “It’s just miserable. It’s really cold.”

King has no heat because she hasn’t paid her gas bill since August. A few months ago, King was the victim of fraud. Her prepaid government issued Direct Express debit card, which includes her monthly disability check for $1,046 was hit.

“At least $1,000. It could be more,” King said.

She knows the thief. It was her 14-year-old grandson. He stole her debit card and used it to purchase PlayStation computer games. But he’s mentally challenged. King said when she explained all this to the representatives at Direct Express, it sounded like it wouldn’t take long to get her money back.

“First he said in two weeks they’ll pay me,” King said. “Then I called back and it was 40 to 90 days.”

King filled out the dispute papers, sent in the police report and kept calling.

“First I get to one person, then they sent to dispute apartment, then they hangs up on me,” said King.

King’s complaints mirror nearly 200 on the ConsumerAffairs site and dozens more at the Better Business Bureau.

“I have to suffer. That’s the only thing I can do. They’re not going to turn the gas on until I pay that money,” King said.

She owes more than $300 on her gas bill. King doesn’t get another disability check until December 3.

CBS 2 called Direct Express. A company representative said they’re still looking into King’s case.

They’ve been looking into it for months.

 

Dorothy Tucker