Credit Card Scams
In “Managing Mom’s Money,” J.D. Roth relates various credit card scams that are difficult to avoid and impossible to get out of once in.
When I took over Mom’s finances 18 months ago, I found a number of odd recurring charges, both to her credit cards and her checking account. When I began calling the phone numbers listed on the statements, I discovered that most of these charges were different types of credit and life insurance.
I was able to cancel a couple of these charges by phone, but most required more effort and more detective work. In other words, they needed more time. Because time is scarce in my life, I put off the problem until the next month. And the next. And the next. Eventually, a year slipped by, during which time I continued to diligently pay these miscellaneous fees.
Finally, last Tuesday I took action. I spent an entire morning calling around in an attempt to cancel these charges. I didn’t have much luck.
While companies make it easy to obtain services, it’s much more difficult to quit. I’m certain they didn’t ask Mom for any sort of ID verification when she signed up, but in order for me to cancel, it’s not enough that I know her name, address, birthday and Social Security number. It’s not enough that I have power of attorney. In order for me to cancel, they need me to sign forms, to fax copies of the power of attorney or to have my mother grant approval. So, my work isn’t finished yet.
I also discovered that Mom has six different life-insurance policies through two different companies. “I wonder why she has so many policies,” I said to my brother. “She doesn’t even need one — nobody relies on her income, so there’s no need for her to have it.”
“You have to be careful,” my brother said. He’s been getting Mom’s mail. “I’ve noticed that sometimes these places send what look like bills, but if you send in payment, you’re actually signing up for yet another insurance policy. It almost fooled me once. There’s no way Mom would have caught it. No wonder she has six different life-insurance policies.”
Together, these life-insurance policies are costing Mom nearly $1,500 per year. And for what? We’re not sure. We can’t find any sort of documentation, so we don’t know what her coverage is.
I found a couple of these sort of recurring charges on my wife’s accounts after she died fourteen months ago. I’m still paying American Express some $12 a month to monitor her credit reports (she’d been a frequent victim of identity theft, so likely signed up for it) because I can’t get it canceled and it hasn’t been worth the aggravation to fight them over it. I’ve called half a dozen times and it never goes away.