Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Banksters Always Win

(Cartoon found at Think Progress)

Here's one for the books.  I shouldn't have been shocked (even I'm not that na├»ve), but I certainly was.  I chalk it up to the meds I'm on.

Sometimes people get themselves into financial trouble; sometimes it's even their own fault.  Credit scores pretty much zero out as bills remain unpaid, cable access gets cut, cars get repossessed.  And even when the crisis is over and the poor slob either declares bankruptcy or somehow struggles out from under the financial load, that credit score is still ruined until someone is willing to extend a little credit, even a small amount, and that loan is paid off.

Unfortunately, that's when the less scrupulous of lenders swoop in.  "Pay Day" lenders are the best known, but bank owned credit card companies can sometimes be nearly as offensive.  To my knowledge, the most egregious scam has been the offer of a card with a relatively small amount of credit available but which also required a "membership" fee and charges exorbitant if not punitive interest rates.  Soon the poor debtor is right back where s/he started.

But wait ... there's more!

At least one credit card company has found yet another way to traumatize vulnerable debtors, and this one is a doozy.

Mike Lazarus points out this latest outrage from one such "EZ" credit sources in the Los Angeles Times.

From Mike's column:

Ding-dong, Cap One calling.

Credit card issuer Capital One isn't shy about getting into customers' faces. The company recently sent a contract update to cardholders that makes clear it can drop by any time it pleases.

The update specifies that "we may contact you in any manner we choose" and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or a "personal visit."

As if that weren't creepy enough, Cap One says these visits can be "at your home and at your place of employment."

The police need a court order to pull off something like that. But Cap One says it has the right to get up close and personal anytime, anywhere.  [Emphasis added]

Mike checked with a lawyer and apparently this clear invasion of privacy is probably  perfectly legal.  The constitutional right to be secure in our homes, our right to privacy, applies only with respect to government entities such as the police, not to civil organizations.

But wait ... there's even more!

Incredibly, Cap One's aggressiveness doesn't stop with personal visits. The company's contract update also includes this little road apple:
"We may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose."
Now that's just freaky. Cap One is saying it can trick you into picking up the phone by using what looks like a local number or masquerading as something it's not, such as Save the Puppies or a similarly friendly-seeming bogus organization.
This is known as spoofing, and it's perfectly legal.

Perfectly legal, even if not exactly consumer-friendly.  But, hey! there's a bank involved. ...

Kudos to Mike Lazarus and to the L.A. Times for yet another great bit of reporting.


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