Detroit’s 27th Letter Books raises funds to recover from credit card fraud

Pineda said the store received an email in May asking how to order a small number of textbooks, which 27th Letter Books does not normally sell. But the store decided to help the customer, who over the course of four months placed several orders for textbooks, each time increasing in quantity.

In order to fulfill the customer’s order, 27th Letter Books had to use a payment system other than its website, said Pineda, which has controls in place to flag fraudulent credit cards.

It wasn’t until Pineda reviewed the orders that she made the connection and discovered that fraudulent cards had been used to pay for those purchases.
Pineda said she immediately contacted the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and the FBI’s Internet Crimes Division.

“They kept referring me to local law enforcement,” she said. “It took a while for our case to be assigned, but they are working with us now… but let us know that the chances of getting money back were very unlikely.”

A DPD spokesperson confirmed the report and said it was actively investigating the matter.

Pineda declined to provide additional details due to the investigation.

“That person was so good…they were manipulators,” said Cooper, who was the main co-owner in contact with the fraudster. “I was upset, really upset…and also frustrated that I hadn’t seen it sooner.”

Pineda said the store’s insurance company, Selective Insurance, cited a clause in its policy stating that the situation fell under an exception to their fraudulent activity policy and the company would not be eligible for reimbursement.

So they turned to their community, launching the GoFundMe on Saturday.

“I was overwhelmed in the best way,” Pineda said. “In a way, it’s a representation of how much people want us to stay and continue to serve the community.”

Fraud is not the first obstacle that the company faces. Since opening in 2020, 27th Letter Books has recovered from flooding, extended power outages and a vehicle crash into its building.

Lucas E. Kelly