Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Got Ripped Off, Read This So It Doesn't Happen To You

If you've been on my mailing list for some time you know that I'm always on the lookout for scams. I found one that was so obvious and out in the open that they even scammed me. I'm not the type to fall for the old "Nigerian prince has left you a million bucks" scheme. I'm actually pretty savvy when it comes to that sort of thing. But, I have to admit, I didn't see this one coming.

I have a checking account, a savings account, and an account for my business; all with the same bank. I've been with this same bank since 2004 and have had no problems. Aside from an overdraft or two during the holidays I run a tight ship. On the 20th of each month I go through all of my bank statements to make sure everything is in order for all my finances.

This month when I went through everything I found nearly $50.00 in NEW maintenance fees on my accounts.

They slipped in $15.00 charges at the end of August and September on my business account and then hit me with $8.95 in fees for each month on my personal accounts. I somehow missed the charges last month, despite going over my statements.

That's $47.90 out the window. Well, actually it's $47.90 towards some big-wig corporate's multi-million dollar executive bonus. I just couldn't let this go.

I'm not saying you should do things like me, but here's how I handled it.

The first thing I did was call in my boyfriend to examine my statements to make sure I wasn't reading things wrong or that I didn't miss anything - two brains are better than one.

Once we both agreed that there were $47.90 in new maintenance fees on what I had always understood to be FREE accounts I pulled out the paperwork from when I opened the accounts. I don't expect everyone to have this sort of documentation on file (my two best friends are lawyers so I've learned to hold on to ALL contracts). I read through all of the paperwork to make sure I wasn't signed up for some kind of promotion that had expired, that I had to keep a minimum balance, or that I was required to wear green on every Thursday to avoid fees. Nope, I was clear.

I then printed out copies of my statements from the past year to show that A) I had never been charged before: and B) show that my account balance was still current.

IMPORTANT: I took the time to write notes on my statements. I highlighted the charges in question. I noted when I opened my account. I made note of questions to ask the bank rep. I did all of this because these things are hard to think of when you're face to face. And this sort of thing pays off when a cocky bank employee tells you, "oh, well, you got charged because you were signed up for a special promotion that expired." You can then reply with, "Really? I have documentation that says the account was free for life."

The next day I went to the bank. I had to keep telling myself that the person at the bank is not the one who took the money out of my account. It's hard to keep your cool in situations like this, but the minute you get loud or aggressive you've lost the argument.

I pulled out my statements and showed the bank rep the charges. I explained the situation in as few words as possible, keeping in mind that the guy was probably not even listening.

He argued by saying that I was signed up for a promotion that expired (see I told you to be ready). So I pulled out the papers from when I opened the account. He was stunned. He then said I got charged for not using my debit card. So I pulled out my statements with HUNDREDS of debit card purchases. He said nothing, just began clicking his mouse. A moment later he said, "Hm, I don't know why you were charged."

I was calm and polite, and said, "You mean 'charged REPEATEDLY' on FREE accounts. This bank just took $50.00 from me for no reason, I can't just let that go without some kind of explanation."

I know it wasn't very nice of me to put him on the spot, but it wasn't very nice of him to hit me with those two lame excuses for being charged.

"I really don't know why you were charged" he says.

"Can you refund those charges?" I ask

"Oh, sure, we'll definitely refund you for those." He says, with an edgy politeness.

THIS IS IMPORTANT!! "Can you go ahead and do that while I'm here so we don't run into this same problem next month." You always want to watch them refund your money, because if you don't make sure it gets done there's a good chance it won't get done ever.

So I kept my cool through the whole thing and got my money back. I wish I could have done more, but at least I got this story out of it. Keep an eye on your bank accounts. These people are ruthless criminals. They WILL rip you off - it's not a question of IF they'll do it, it's WHEN.


  1. Damn, girl, you're much calmer than I would have been. Thanks for these tips - I'm super on the ball about my money but most of the time (bc I don't keep contracts, etc.) I just end up feeling powerless and pissed.

    Great post. Glad you got your money back. Evilneedles, 1; Evil bankers, 0.

    Love it.

  2. Arrrgh reading this just made me angry, good on you for keeping your cool and getting your money back...