The Checkout

Checks Enclosed With More Bills Ahead

You can't miss the message on the envelope from Chase. There it is in bold black letters: "Check Enclosed." Maybe it's my long lost rebate check!

Nope. It's a promotion. I should have known--especially since I got two such offers in the same day. If I cashed the first check, I would automatically be enrolled in Chase's Fraud Detector, which would alert me to any suspicious activity on my account. I'd also get a special "fraud advisor" if I'm an identity-theft victim and could be reimbursed up to $25,000 for expenses incurred to correct my credit record. Of course, that all comes with a fee: $7.99 a month.

The second check, if cashed, would enroll me in Chase's Payment Protector--a kind of insurance to protect your account and credit rating in times of financial stress, such as losing a job or becoming disabled. The cost: 89 cents for every $100 you have on balance on each monthly statement. That works out to $8.90 a month for a balance of $1,000. This debt-protection plan has become a big moneymaker for credit-card issuers, even though consumer advocates and some state regulators say the product offers little protection at a high cost.

Many consumer advocates raise similar concerns about fraud detection plans as well. So, as attractive as those $20 checks may be, make sure you read the fine print--and think carefully before you sign.

By  |  March 3, 2006; 7:10 AM ET Consumer Tips
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Comments

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If they're giving you money to get you to buy insurance, chances are they know you don't really need that insurance.

Posted by: Justin | March 3, 2006 10:09 AM

I get these sorts of offers all the time from my banking institutions. They are a huge waste of money. Just this past week I was given a perfect example of why these types of services need not be paid for.

I primarily use Bank of America for my everyday financial needs. Well this past weekend; after having received my 2005 tax refunds, I decided to do a bit of shopping. Well after two days of excessive spending, including a couple of unusual large sum purchases, my account was frozen.

At first, I chalked it up to having overextended the allowable check card spending limit for any given day. A few days later I tried to use my check card for a normal, everyday type purchase and it too was declined. So, I contacted the bank and was informed of the freeze and they explained to me the logic behind it and that it was for my own protection.

After answering about 10 - 15 various questions for verifying that I was who I claimed to me and that all of the recent purchases were valid, they released the freeze. Now I'm back to using my checkcard for every day life.

My point is that most banking institutions provide fraud monitoring services automatically. And, if yours doesn't you should seriously consider finding another bank.

Posted by: Michelle | March 3, 2006 10:20 AM

But don't you think it's odd that an offer for fraud/theft protection would come with a big "check enclosed" stamp on it? That, to me, seems an invitation.

Posted by: write4food | March 3, 2006 10:22 AM

Thanks Caroline, that is good to know stuff, however I tell you I am becoming so discourage with banks. Back in the day, a bank had no fee's but for maybe special request, but now they have hidden fee's, and just like this one you decribed schemes as well.

Im ready to go back to the old ways and start paying my bills with money orders and keep my money in a safe in my home and pay interest into it once a year.

Banks really scare me.

Posted by: Frankey | March 3, 2006 1:26 PM

I went though the change from Wachovia to Bank One to Chase (all on the same credit card)--during which they automatically added the "credit protector" scam for some reason. I tried several times using different ways to get off it, and finally did. However the bank still insisted I owe some $3 charge related to it. I wrote a letter explaining, and cancelling the credit card, but monthly I recieve the $3 billing. Push merchandising at it's worst.

Posted by: Aslan365 | March 3, 2006 3:40 PM

I am the victim of Identity Theft. Did my bank, Washington Mutual, catch it? Nope, one of the victims, Western Union, did and notified me. I am now on my fourth debit card since last November (or will be when it arrives). My third one was closed without my knowledge, nor did anyone see a need to notify me at all. I called after two puchases online were declined. After months of fighting identity theft, my emotions are raw, and I burst into tears. I've never done that on a business call, but it worked:) A card in 3 days instead of 14. Don't count on your bank, no matter its size, to police your account. Don't count on your credit card companies to police those accounts. It is, and always has been, a personal responsibility.

Posted by: Marti | March 5, 2006 10:55 PM

My cousin, who is an immigrant with a decent command of English, was suckered in by one of those $5 checks that enrolled her in credit or fraud protector from a credit card company. She thought it was a $5 freebie, little did she know she signed up for a hundred dollar service.

jim
http://www.bargaineering.com/articles

Posted by: jim | March 5, 2006 11:42 PM

This makes me wonder if I can send the credit card company a check (outside of a regular payment, not associated with any account) with a letter noting that if this non-required check is cashed that all outstanding accounts will be considered paid in full. Surely the scam can be turned back on them.

Posted by: Bob | March 6, 2006 11:47 AM

Chase automatically added the payment protector plan to my bill. Because I was starting a business, I did not notice for 4 months when the charges totalled over $800. I learned the lesson never to trust a credit card company. I spoke to a representative of Chase in the fraud department who stated this was not the first time this happened.
I contacted the FTC and also the federal agency over federal banks. They could care less as long as the matter is eventually resolved by Chase. Chase has the government in their pocket.
I never signed a check. I never authorized the account depite several telemarketers based in India soliciting me. The last person was a woman who was quite rude.
Who regulates these thiefs?

Posted by: Lori | May 9, 2006 9:01 PM

I get these checks from Chase all the time. I cash them, wait a couple of weeks, and then cancel whatever program I enrolled in. It's free money. Unfortunately, it doesn't *always* go so smoothly. See my blog entry at http://blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us/~jik/wordpress/?p=45 for more about this.

Posted by: Jonathan Kamens | August 24, 2006 1:11 PM

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