Wire Transers

A recent article about scams and wire transfers caught my eye the other day.  Here are time facts from the article . . .

Rules governing wire transfers place a larger burden on account holders than laws on credit cards or debit card . . . . {the} bank says {the victim} may not have met required security requirements on his computer system — even though he has secured wireless, firewalls, anti-virus software and other protection — and so, the bank may not be liable to pay him back. 

I get really frustrated when I see things like this.  Why is it that the banks can sit back and do nothing, and put all of the blame on the customer!?!?!  When do the banks have to stand up and say “There are things we could have done to stop this, so we are liable also.”

Eight years . . .

Eight years ago this month my husband and I became victims of a counterfeit cashier’s check scam when our bank told us that a cashier’s check we received was good, clear, verified and that we would have no problems with it.  Off of that information, we went forward with a transaction.  One week later the bank contacted us to let us know that the check was counterfeit, and that WE were 100% liable for the money . . . even though they had told us it was good, clear and verified.
It was this situation that brought us to create the website ScamVictimsUnited.com, where we warn people about scams, offer resources and advice, and allow people to talk with other victims on our message board.  In the first two years of our site being operational we helped stop over $2 million dollars from going into scams.

Now, you would think that eight years later things would have changed.  Some things have, but even today we see victims coming to our site who brought these checks to the bank and were told that they were good, clear or verified . . . sometimes by more than one bank employee . . . so the exact same situation that happened to us eight years ago is still happening to people today.
Until laws can be changed to hold the banks accountable for telling the customers that these checks are good, clear and verified and then later hold the bank customer liable when it comes back that they are NOT a true check, education is the best way we have to fight these scams.

What can you do?

Write to your law makers and tell them that you want to see banks held liable for releasing funds on checks that they have told customers are good, clear or verified, and then later reversed those words to hold the customer liable.

Sign our petition to ask for stronger consumer protection laws.  If the banks are liable for the money lost, and not the customer, then they will change their practices and make SURE that every penny is accounted for before they release the money to the customer.

Contact your bank and ask them if you brought in a cashier’s check for $4000, how long would it take to know you could use the money, with no worries about the check.  If their answer included terms like “clear“, “good” or “verified‘ you may want to read the information we have on what these terms really mean, and then armed with that information you may want to speak to the bank manager about better education on counterfeit checks for his staff, or go and find a bank that already does understand these items and can therefore better protect you and your money.

 

Scams and Trying to Educate People

I had a former co-worker email me the other day and she told me she was reading her Homemade Simple Magazine, and saw my name in it.
While I was VERY happy to see this article about scams, since this helps to educate people to what is going on, I was disappointed to see that some of the facts were not accurate.  Here is a portion of the article that is speaking about how to verify the status of a cashier’s check . . .
To find out a check’s status, call your bank twice (talk to two different workers in case one doesn’t understand the process) to verify that the check has been fully processed. Otherwise you lose the money if the check is a fake.
This would not be accurate.  In the case of our story, I spoke with two different bank employees BEFORE I withdrew the money from the account, and both of them told me that the check was “good”, “clear”, “verified”, “funds were available” and that I “had nothing to worry about”.  Once we found out the check was counterfeit and were dealing with the bank’s loss prevention department we asked them the same question, and we had two different people from THAT department tell us that “a cashier’s check is verified as good within 24 hours”.  These people in the loss prevention department knew what had happened to us, yet they were still giving us the same inaccurate information.
The ONLY real way to find out if the check is counterfeit or not is to call the bank that is listed on the check as the issuing bank.  Also, you cannot trust the phone number listed on the check.  The scammers have gotten smart and have started altering those also so that they go to one of the people within their group who will tell you that the check is good.  You need to do a Google search to find the official website of the issuing bank, or the Yellow Pages listing for that bank, and then call that phone number.
The advice from this article in regards to counterfeit cashier’s checks would not save anyone from becoming a victim of these types of scams.  It is sad, because the point of the article was to show real world situations that the everyday person could become involved in, and how they can be aware and protect themselves from these scams.
It looks like we still have a LOT of education to do, especially to the people that are trying to help educate the average American.

Prevent overdraft loans

This is some great information from AFFIL that I had to share with you.

Starting on August 15, your bank cannot charge you overdraft loans unless you authorize them to. This is great news – no more surprise $34 charges for overdrawing your account by $1! Instead, transactions will be declined at no cost if you don’t have enough money in your account.

But, your bank or credit union will probably try to convince you to opt-in to overdraft “protection.” In 2008, banks made almost $24 billion on overdraft loans, and they’re going to miss this cash. To keep it coming, they may try to convince you to enroll in overdraft protection which will trigger a huge fee for each small overdraft. This is a bad deal for you, but a great deal for them.

It’s easy to protect yourself — just do nothing! Don’t opt-in to overdraft protection, and make sure your friends and family don’t either.

If you think you are likely to overdraw your account, talk to your bank or credit union about another option.

Sign up for a line of credit
Link your checking account to your savings account or credit card
Read more about these options from the Center for Responsible Lending (and check out their funny overdraft video while you’re at it).

Your bank may already be asking you to opt-in to an overdraft program. Don’t fall for it. Just do nothing when they ask you to opt-in.

Good news for some homeowners

In a press release from the FTC it was announced that Countrywide, who was accquired by Bank of America in 2008, will be paying $108 million to homeowners who were struggeling to keep their homes and Countrywide collected exsessive fees from.

“Life is hard enough for homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgage. To have a major loan servicer like Countrywide piling on illegal and excessive fees is indefensible,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “We’re very pleased that homeowners will be reimbursed as a result of our settlement.”

The bank took advantage of the fact that these people were in an emotional place while they were making these choice because they feared that they could loose their home.  They trusted what the bank employees were telling them, and as my husband and I learned years ago, you cannot always trust that the information that they are giving you is true and accurate, even when you think you are asking the right questions.

To read all of the information on this case and the settlement with the FTC, you can go to
http://ftc.gov/opa/2010/06/countrywide.shtm

Protect the Consumer!

Our friends at Americans for Fairness in Lending asked me to share some great information with you about a new site that they are involved with called ProtectTheConsumer.org and their recent webinar with Professor Elisabeth Warren about financial reform. If you missed the webinar, you can listen to it here.

Professor Warren emphasized, we can’t win this fight without everyone’s help. The big banks will always be able to outspend consumers, so it’s up to us to make sure our voices are heard as the Senate considers financial reform legislation. Use your words to make a difference by taking action today!

Giving People a Voice: ShameTheBanks.org

Here is a press release from another site that has a similar mission as ours . . . giving people a voice and a place to share their stories.
On Monday, March 22nd Shamethebanks.org was launched to give a voice to the millions of American’s fighting the banking system to save their homes, lower the interest on a credit card, advocate for student loan rights.
ShameTheBanks.org is a non-commercial website designed to give hope and empowerment to American families. The first release of the website is targeted on helping Homeowners by providing information and knowledge gleaned from multiple sources accessible in one central location. Further releases will target information regarding credit cards and student loans.
It is clear that Wall Street, the Banks, and the Loan Servicers are not concerned about the American Family: they’ve taken tax dollar bailouts to lobby and persuade elected officials for their own end, reward themselves with bonuses and salaries while Main Street families struggle to remain afloat.
The first release of ShameTheBanks.org carries a message to Congress and the Banking Institutions on the continued lack of assistance to millions of Americans suffering from the troubled economy and a Mortgage Modification Program that still has yet to help the 4 – 6 million Americans that it was proposed to assist.
According to the latest report by Treasury, just over 170,000 mortgages have been permanently modified. The banks and servicers who participated in the program have offered 1,354,350 homeowners trial modifications – a far cry from six million and a mere 12 percent of those have been converted to permanent modifications. The rest? Who knows?
It is estimated that homeowners have been bilked out of close to $4 billion in this way. A technique paid for by taxpayers. If they do get a modification, it can be nothing more than a difference of $20. The banks call that a modification and collect more taxpayer money.
The Congressional Budget Office reported that HAMP won’t even spend the full $50 billion it had allocated to helping homeowners. It will only spend $20 billion. That’s $5 billion less than the government spent saving the auto industry and only 3 percent of what it spent saving the banks.
With a mission to provide accurate, up to date information regarding Banking and Congressional issues ShameTheBanks.org does not share personal information with third parties. Instead, it offers a community where struggling families can take refuge and find relief (not shame or blame) by reading stories of real people and empowering themselves with resources.
Submitting stories is welcomed and encouraged. Visitors simply register and receive instructions on submitting their story.
About ShameTheBanks.org
ShameTheBanks.org was developed by Huffington Post blogger Richard Zombeck to bring national attention to the modification crisis that continues to plague millions of Americans. Richard is joined by writers with firsthand experience with Loan Modification, Credit Card and Student Loans. After repeated unsuccessful attempts with Congress, Government Agencies, the Banks and many other resources, this group is fed up and instead of giving up, created a community of support and empowerment.
Contact:
Richard Zombeck
ShameTheBanks.org