Friday, July 28, 2006

Credit card scam

No, I'm not talking about the spam in your e-mail inbox. This scam is (apparently) 100% legal. One of my credit cards was bought out by a different bank last year. In the transition, I didn't notice that they inserted an opt-out "rewards program" with a fee of $29/year. By "opt-out," I mean that if you do nothing, you are signed up. The "rewards program" offers such things as an electronic Sudoku puzzle, a radio-controlled toy car, and a flashlight that never needs batteries. All are "free" — plus $9.97 shipping and handling. Never mind that the flashlight is $13, the radio-controlled car is maybe $10 to $20, and the Sudoku game I've seen for $9.95. We're not exactly talking eye-popping values here.

I want to underscore that I never signed anything, never verbally agreed to anything, never asked for this "rewards program," and didn't even know I was "enrolled" until I got the bill. All I did was not cancel a program I didn't even know I was enrolled in. Luckily, I did check the charges on my statement, and the customer service rep agreed to take the $29 off my account. But it still demonstrates that the price of easy credit is eternal vigilance.

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