5 Mar


Whaaaa? I had $500 and now it’s $100!

What happened to my money?

Three different industries. Three bank account ripoffs. Same MO. No, it’s not identity theft. It’s outright illegal monetary theft. Companies you pay online or by phone for a product or service and to whom you entrust your credit card info, are taking a little more than they should and your bank is turning a blind eye.

True Confessions

These sample scenarios actually happened. Don’t let them happen to you.

Scenario #1:

Earlier this year, a friend told me her story about a car rental company that quoted her a nice price to acknowledge her repeat customer service. When she returned the car, she got slapped with a bill for nearly twice as much. She had the quote in writing but when she presented it, the company danced all around it with excuses and wouldn’t honor it. The charge remained on her credit card.

I told her she would have to write the manager and CEO, then contact the credit card company. She did. The issue was eventually resolved but she spent close to six hours between phone calls and research and writing letters and paying for certified delivery to ensure a receipt. The paper trail is always important, but labor-intensive. Most companies hope you won’t notice or won’t put up the good fight.

In the end, American business is in Trump mode. They WILL take your money and call it an “oversight.”

Seriously?Scenario #2:

Scenario # 2

A senior we’ll call Jim, pays his auto loan on line. It’s NOT an automatic debit but of course the auto financial institution now has the checking account and associated ATM debit card info.

Jim checks his checking account frequently especially since he’s on a fixed income and has limited funds. While expecting a balance of approximately $700, he is shocked to see it is only $200 and some change. When he contacts the company, he gets a runaround but eventually, while admitting no wrongdoing, and blaming Jim for checking the wrong amount, the company says it will return the oversighted amount to his account within three to five business days.

Here’s the real stinker. After that time passes and the money has not been returned, Jim calls again. He is talking with a “bot” that repeats the same words no matter what his question. Finally, a human tells him they won’t be refunding the money they took but will instead send a check within seven to ten business days.

Imagine one institution doing this to just a million selected customers a day. Suddenly, it has hundreds of millions of dollars on its books for up to three weeks. They look great and the customer has a low or no balance.

Scenario #3: This one just happened and it happened to me.

I sever my ties with a cable TV company (you can figure it out) that has screwed me over too often. They send me a box to pack up my equipment. I take it to the post office as directed. All boxes and remotes and wires are enclosed.

The balance due on the service is $113. I used to pay the monthly fee on-line as do 80% of Americans. It is not an automatic debit. Cable companies (and some phone companies) charge you a month in advance, and I hate giving companies like this my money for services I have not received.

By the way, I’ve been looking into the legislation that allows them to charge a month in advance and its very complicated. “No one could have imagined how complicated.”

Imagine my surprise when I see this company has somehow taken $357 from my checking account. For what? The amount due to them is $113 and the normal bill date is 10 days out. A closer look shows $244 is billed for equipment not returned.

No, the equipment was returned. THEY just didn’t notice. So their motto is “Bill ‘em anyway.”

Further phone calls and in-depth investigation with my bank (among the top four internationally) and I am floored. (a) I can’t stop payment because it’s not a check. (b) I can dispute the charge but I have to contact the cable company first. (It’s 1:00 AM in the morning, so forget that.) And (c) as long as the company has your card info and previous transactions, they are free to post any transaction they like.

This is scary SH*T. There is no other way to express it. Imagine all the companies with whom you’ve done business and to whom you’ve entrusted your valuable credit card data. Any business with that info can levy a charge if they can justify it or take it, apologize or not and call it an oversight.

I call this money laundering. Sen. Elizabeth Warren- (D. MA) compared money laundering by banks (specifically directed to Wells Fargo) to drug possession, saying: “If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail… But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night.”[

 I encourage you, whether you’ve been a victim of this kind of fraud or not, to write to your senators and reps and to Sen. Elizabeth Warren U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Or write:

Elizabeth Warren
317 Hart Senate Office Building  Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4543

Boston Office
2400 JFK Federal Building
15 New Sudbury Street
Boston, MA 02203
Phone: (617) 565-3170

If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention.


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