What's the difference between a thief who steals your identity and your credit card company?
The Answer: Nothing. They both steal your money.
I am so angry at Chase Card member services this morning, I could scream. Instead, I will take a breath and just cancel my credit cards. This anger built up is not only against the credit card company but also our government's bureaucracy. Can we get anything in our country working again? Or is it all about the almighty dollar? Arrgh! I try to remember at what point in our history did making money become more important than operating ethically-I cannot recall.
A couple of months ago, my assistant called my credit card company to inquire about their protection plans and whether the insurance would cover lost items purchased on that card. When in South Africa in August, I had purchased a number of gifts with my credit card and because United Airlines lost my luggage, those gifts never made it home. I thought it would be smart to get insurance that could cover purchases lost or stolen so when Lauren spoke to the rep, she asked about this insurance and to have information sent to our house.
When we got the information, I barely glanced at it, and realized it was not what I was looking for. We threw the papers into the garbage can. Never in that initial discussion did we tell Chase Card Member Services that we wanted the protection plans. Please pay attention HERE because this is where the scam begins. If you want information on most plans sent to you in a paper form, the credit card company automatically enrolls you in the protection plan. Period. Your request is their approval. In my case, they never mentioned that they were enrolling us and of the costs of the program. I am sure that I am not alone.
This morning, as I came into the office after some morning meetings, my bookkeeper was there going over the bills for the month. Ethical, honest, and great at his job, he has worked for our family for many years. (No, he does not have any time for new clients!) As I sat down, he pointed out to me some charges on my Chase United Mileage Credit Card.
The items looked were credit card protection plans charges, something that I did not authorize. I called Chase at 11am to find out why these charges were on my monthly statement. One of the charges is called I.D. Protection and cost 11.99 a month. The other is called Chase Fraud Detection. This is $7.99 a month.
I called the Chase Fraud Detector number first and talked to a nice guy who explained to me that when I called to ask a question about an issue in January, "they must have asked me" to try this 30-day free trial for Fraud Protection. It is funny that my Assistant and I have no recollection of that conversation. We were certain that no one had asked specifically if I wanted to pay for a thirty day trial of protection. This made me curious. If they did not ask us, how was I to know to cancel that charge after the initial 30 days? Hmmm.
The card services employee politely went through all the benefits of Fraud Insurance. I interrupted him and said, "I am sure that there are reasons for this insurance, I just question the ethics of how I got subscribed." I also told him that the next call I would be making was to the Attorney Generals office of California.
We had a nice chat about the legality of their "marketing efforts" and he assured me that their lawyers were operating within "legal bounds". He credited my account for two of the months. I needed to call a supervisor to get the rest credited. Sigh.
So, I called I.D. Protection Services, which is also a division of Chase, but not listed as such on the credit card statement. I went through the same process with him and he told me that we asked for the service when we called to inquire back in December. I told him that we did not sign up but had asked for information to be sent to us. He said that he could credit my account for both March and February but could not do more than that. Then the verbal assault began: "Ma'am you don't want to be protected from Identity Theft?"? His menacing tone added just a touch of "are you a complete idiot?" Then I got angry. (Surprise, surprise). I said, "Actually, I am a bit more sophisticated and savvy when it comes to marketing. Could you please cut out of the games...and just reverse the charges?"
"No ma'am, I am only authorized to do it for the last two months...you need to talk to my supervisor." I went on hold for at least 10 minutes and then hung up to start again. On the next call, it was Larry again, so I hung up. Then on the 3rd call I was connected with a nice new person, Mr. Ed, (no, not the horse). He eventually got me up to Richard, an Escalation Supervisor who explained to me that when I asked for information about the programs, I was automatically enrolled. I asked him if he recorded these conversations and if he could locate mine. He said yes but they cost $80 per request, so they would just credit my account for the remainder of the money they charged. He also said that they actually have two other companies that listen in on the phone call to make sure that customer does request the coverage. Now why would they have something like this?
Think about this: Technically, they start charging your credit card without your authorization, supposedly when you ask for information.
So, here is what Chase gets from this situation: Your money.
Chase gets your money interest free until you learn what happens. If you miss the charges and let them charge you month after month they get a lot of your money. OR, you might inquire about the charges and get some of it back OR you might fight and get all of it back and you lose a lot of time in your day dealing with this. Any one of these scenarios gives the credit card company all the advantages.
Somewhere in the middle of debacle, around 12:30 pm, I call information for the number of the Attorney General's office in California. I called Edmund (Jerry) Browns' office in Sacramento and reached his voice mail. I call again and get a switchboard voice mail. I wait a few minutes and finally talk to a real person. She sends me to the 800 number for complaints. There, I finally speak to a person and I tell her the whole story. She says "If you want us to do something about this, you need to file a complaint". She could send me one in the mail, but it is easier for me to get it online. So I go to the web-site.
Ten minutes later, I am still trying to navigate and find a complaint form against a business. Frustration is starting to get the best of me.
I am now already two hours into this experience. I Google Chase Card Member Services and end up at the parent company: JP Morgan.
This is what is on the web-site:
JP Morgan Chase is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $1.6 trillion. They operate in 50 countries with 170,000 employees. They are a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers, small business and commercial banking, financial transaction processing, asset management and private equity.Now think about how many people they have access to...
According to their philosophy their goal is to:
"Build a great team and a winning culture
• Operate with the highest standards of integrity
• Train and retain great managers
• Be open and honest with ourselves, our colleagues, our shareholders and our communities
• Get incentives right
• Foster an environment of respect and inclusiveness
• Give back to our communities"
At this point, I am not sure I should laugh or cry, and feel like doing both. I surmise that if one credit card company is practicing this, the chances of this being an industry wide practice are strong. I don't have the heart to call another credit card company to find out if this is true.
I read a lot about identity theft, and how it is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It is easy to see the villainous face of someone who steals your identity for their own gain, and wreaks havoc on your life... but what about these "trillion" dollar companies that take your money without your consent?
After three hours dealing with this issue, I am about to give up. I go back to the Attorney Generals' Web-site and try to find the complaint form again. This could be a full time job. I finally breathe a heavy sigh and surrender. This is exactly the response these companies are counting on when they create these "marketing" programs.
Please take the time to check your credit card statement this month. See if you find unnecessary charges there by your credit card company, or charges that you did not request. Pass this blog onto to your close friends. It will take a moment. Let's show the banks that we can be a little savvier about how they take our money and we can create our own protection services...for free.
Three months of I.D. Protection Services $35.97
Three months of Chase Fraud Detection $23.97
The cost of un-ethical business practices Priceless
Follow Michealene Cristini Risley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@mcrisley