Better Business: As money recovery scams proliferate, here’s what to do

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As I write this column, I’m reminded of the old saying about what crooks could accomplish if they would only turn their talents to honest work. Their creativity continues to amaze me.

We’ve seen a slew of phishing e-mails recently that misappropriate the good names of the Better Business Bureau and the National Automated Clearing House Association, the organization that processes billions of automated financial transactions.

The phony BBB e-mails purportedly concern a complaint filed with the bureau. The NACHA e-mails alert recipients to a wire transfer that couldn’t be processed.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the two scams had morphed into one. I recently discovered five e-mails in my spam folder that claimed to be from the BBB alerting me to a problem with a wire transfer.

Now there’s a new twist on the BBB phishing scam that’s a variation of what’s known as a “money recovery scam.” People have reported receiving phone calls from someone advising that their computer was infected with a virus downloaded from a bogus BBB e-mail and offering to remove it. In other words, the crooks are offering to help people recover from a scam the crooks perpetrated on them.

The Federal Trade Commission has published advice on money recovery scams. It says scam artists buy and sell “sucker lists” with the names of people who have lost money to fraudulent promotions. Their theory is that people who have been deceived once are likely to fall for another scam.

The crooks call the victims and offer, for an upfront fee, to help them recover the money they lost or get the sweepstakes prize they were supposed to receive but didn’t. Some even claim to represent government agencies that help victims of scams.

The FTC and BBB offer the following advice to help you avoid falling victim to a money recovery scam:

Don’t believe anyone who calls offering to recover money, merchandise, or prizes you never received if the caller says you have to pay a fee in advance. Even if they’re legitimate, it’s against the law for them to request or receive payment from you until seven business days after you have the money or other item in hand.

If someone claims to represent a government agency that will recover your lost money, merchandise, or prizes for a fee or a donation to a charity, report them immediately to the FTC.

Before you use any company to recover either money or a prize, ask what specific services the company provides and the cost of each service. Check out the company with local government law enforcement, the BBB and other consumer agencies. You also can enter the company name into an online search engine to look for complaints.

Don’t give out your credit card or checking account numbers in an attempt to recover money you’ve lost or a prize you’ve never received.

– Randy Hutchinson: rhutchinson@bbbmidsouth.org.

Article source: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/feb/18/better-business-as-money-recovery-scams-heres-to/?partner=yahoo_feeds

Mistakes reopen ‘zombie’ accounts

It’s no accident that moving your checking account can be kind of a pain. As I’ve pointed out on this blog before, banks promote direct deposit and bill pay in part because it makes switching banks much more difficult. Would-be bank switchers have to coordinate moving over their various direct deposits and automatic bill payments to the other account carefully so as not to overdraw their old account or bounce any payments.
Well, add one more thing to the chore list: making absolutely sure all automatic payments and deposits clear before closing your account. Turns out many banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, will automatically reopen a closed account should your employer accidentally make a direct deposit into your old account, according to an article by Catherine New that ran late last week in the Huffington Post:
Bank of America will reactivate a closed account if an electronic deposit or credit, like an automatic bill payment, is made. “If we receive something, we may reopen the account to accept the item, and the account may be subject to associated fees,” Betty Reiss, a Bank of America spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post. “We remind (customers of that) when they are closing the account.”
JPMorgan Chase also will automatically reopen a customer’s account after it’s closed if the bank receives a deposit. The bank, which recently eliminated its policy to charge customers an account-closing fee, indicates in its fine print that “any closed account may be automatically reopened if we receive a deposit to the account.” JPMorgan Chase declined to further comment.
If that happens, it not only forces you to go through the process of shutting down your account all over again, often requiring an in-person visit to the bank, but in some cases, you’ll have to settle a fee of anywhere from $25 to $50 for opening and closing an account within 90 days, according to the article.
You can see the potential flurry of fees that could result from this practice. Say an old employer, or even Uncle Sam in the case of a tax refund, realized it owed you $200 and direct deposited that to your account. If you weren’t notified, that money would likely be subject to fees for not meeting the minimum balance until you realized it was there, at which time you would take it out and pay another $25-$50 to close your account.
For the banks, this cycle of fees works in a couple of different ways. First, it’s free money for them, and second, the next time you’re thinking about switching a checking account, you’ll probably be a little gun-shy if it ended up costing you a big chunk of fees.
As New notes in her story, this is exactly the kind of practice that would be outlawed by The Freedom and Mobility in Banking Act introduced in Congress last fall by Rep. Brad Miller D-N.C. That bill has little chance of moving anytime before the next Congress, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Consumer Financial […] Continue Reading…

Article source: http://www.bankrate.com/financing/banking/mistakes-reopen-zombie-accounts/

Bank Fees Survey EOY 2011: Free checking makes a comeback

see photosClick for full photo gallery: Bank Fees: Fixed
The latest MoneyRates.com Bank Fees Survey suggests that reports of the death of free checking have been greatly exaggerated.
The new data, which measured bank fees at selected banks during the second half of 2011, find that the proportion of free checking accounts grew about 4 percentage points over the mid-2011 survey. In addition, the average monthly maintenance fee on checking accounts declined, and the average minimums required to start a new account and to avoid monthly fees also fell.
It’s hard to determine whether these changes occurred because of last year’s consumer outrage over new bank fees or because the banking industry simply regained its competitive spirit. But whatever the cause, it’s important that consumers note these trends if they want to get the best deal on their checking accounts.
Monthly maintenance fees
Some checking account fees are charged on a pay-as-you-go basis. For example, overdraft fees and ATM fees are only assessed when you use those services. Monthly maintenance fees, on the other hand, are there month-in and month-out, regardless of how you use the account — unless you are savvy enough to find a checking account with no monthly maintenance fee.
In the mid-2011 MoneyRates.com survey, only 34.7 percent of checking accounts had no monthly maintenance fee, down from 37.7 percent at the end of 2010. However, the latest numbers show that the percentage of free checking accounts has rebounded to 38.8 percent, the highest figure since mid-2010.
Along with that, for checking accounts that charge a monthly fee, the average amount dropped to $11.28 from its mid-2011 figure of $11.75. However, with those average monthly fees still coming to a total of $135.36 per year, the real opportunity to save money is to find one of the growing percentage of checking accounts that waive all monthly maintenance fees.
The data also suggest that online banks may be a good place to start your search for a free checking account. Of the accounts offered by online banks in the survey, 53.3 percent had no monthly maintenance fee, outpacing the proportion of free checking accounts at traditional banks by about 15 percentage points.
Account minimums
The latest numbers on account minimums suggest more good news for consumers. The average amount required to open a checking account dropped to $391.41 in the current survey. In mid-2011, that figure was $412.53, and at the end of 2010 it was $517.41.

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneybuilder/2012/02/16/bank-fees-survey-eoy-2011-free-checking-makes-a-comeback/?feed=rss_home

Coupons Without Clipping: Saving Money With Online Deals

Mother of six Meghan Caron spends most Sundays clipping coupons.   “It is a massive undertaking. I really anticipate the Sunday paper coming,” says Caron.But keeping tabs on all those offers often adds up to stress and confusion. “I have, then, like this little binder system that I use, and I try to sort of organize them by store,” says Caron. Meghan hopes to cut back on clipping by using digital coupons. They’re promotions or discounts that are automatically loaded onto to your debit card, credit card, or store loyalty card. Simply use your plastic in-store or online to redeem the savings.Janna Herron with bankrate.com says you’re about to see a digital coupon explosion.   “It is convenient. Consumers don’t have to stuff their purse or their wallet with a bunch of paper coupons, and they don’t have to worry about forgetting them, because it’s linked to their card,” says Herron.Some e-coupons can be found directly on your credit or debit card statement. Others are available through third party web sites. “Typically, you register your debit card, credit card, or store loyalty card on either the third party web site or your bank issuer’s web site. And then, when you see a coupon that you want, you just click on it.”And soon you’ll be able to download deals via billboards, magazines, and television, too!”You scan a QR code, or you type in a star-star code on your mobile device, and that offer is linked right to your card,” says Tom Burgess.Burgess is with Linkable Networks, a company on the forefront of this technology.”We support 99% of all credit or debit cards from around the country,” says Burgess.Meghan registered on mylinkables.com and racked up savings at a home improvement store.”My savings there was between $5 to $10 dollars, which was very significant savings for us,” says Caron.While e-coupons can save you dollars, Herron says it’s important to know that most services monitor your purchase history, so you can receive targeted coupons. Bankrate says that some credit card issuers are even selling that history to retailers.”Consumers should read the privacy policy before signing up for these services so they know how the information is gathered, what is collected, who it’s being shared with,” says Herron.Burgess says that linkable networks is committed to keeping your data anonymous. “We deal with the banks directly. And the consumer’s data, all that personally identifiable information, your name, your address, and so forth, remains behind the firewall at the bank,” says Burgess.Meghan says she feels safe, and the time and money it saves her is worth every penny. “Just to even go out to eat as a family of 8 would be something that is a treat for us,” Caron.When it comes to debit and credit cards, the money you save is typically credited to your account 14 to 30 days after the purchase, so be vigilant about checking your statement.

Article source: http://bigcountryhomepage.com/fulltext?nxd_id=467572

Barclays Starts U.K. Mobile Phones Service to Transfer Money

February 16, 2012, 4:29 AM EST

By Howard Mustoe

(Updates with executive comment from fourth paragraph.)
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) — Barclays Plc, the U.K. bank led by Robert Diamond, today begins a service to enable its 11.9 million checking account customers to transfer money to one another using mobile phones.
Barclays’s Pingit application will allow users to send as much as 300 pounds ($470) a day by linking their mobile phone number to their checking account details. Anyone with a U.K. checking account will be able to receive payments and the service will be expanded to customers without a Barclays account by early March, the London-based bank said in the statement.
Barclays, Britain’s third-largest bank by assets, last week its U.K. consumer unit division increased pretax profit by 3 percent to 1.02 billion pounds in 2011 from the year-earlier period. Antony Jenkins, consumer banking head, in June promised a “simpler, more effective way to do business.” The bank said Pingit is the first of its kind in Europe.
“Once people start to use the service they’ll like it, they’ll become very happy to do business with Barclays and the next time they think about getting a mortgage, savings account or credit card they’ll think of Barclays,” Jenkins said in an interview today.
Development was started in the middle of last year, and the bank is betting it can attract customers now to keep them away from any competitor’s systems that may emerge, he said.
“Once you’ve got people in the system, they’ve got no incentive to go anywhere else, so why use another service?” he said.
The application can be used on Apple Inc. iPhones, Google Inc.’s Android and Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, the lender said. Bill payments, international payments could be added to the software, Jenkins said.
“We have plenty of ideas in the hopper,” said Jenkins.
– Editors: Jon Menon, Steve Bailey
To contact the reporter on this story: Howard Mustoe in London at hmustoe@bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

Article source: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-16/barclays-starts-u-k-mobile-phones-service-to-transfer-money.html

Barclays Starts U.K. Service to Transfer Money Via Mobile Phones

February 16, 2012, 2:27 AM EST

By Howard Mustoe

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) — Barclays Plc, the U.K. bank led by Robert Diamond, today begins a service to enable its 11.9 million checking account customers to transfer money to one another using mobile phones.
Barclays’s Pingit application will allow users to send as much as 300 pounds ($470) a day by linking their mobile phone number to their checking account details. Anyone with a U.K. checking account will be able to receive payments and the service will be expanded to customers without a Barclays account by early March, the London-based bank said in the statement.
Barclays, Britain’s third-largest bank by assets, last week its U.K. consumer unit division increased pretax profit by 3 percent to 1.02 billion pounds in 2011 from the year-earlier period. Antony Jenkins, consumer banking head, in June promised a “simpler, more effective way to do business.” The bank said Pingit is the first of its kind in Europe.
“We’re committed to making customers’ lives much easier, giving them more choice in how they manage their money,” Jenkins said in today’s statement. The application can be used on Apple Inc. iPhones, Google Inc.’s Android and Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, the lender said.
– Editors: Jon Menon, Steve Bailey
To contact the reporter on this story: Howard Mustoe in London at hmustoe@bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

Article source: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-16/barclays-starts-u-k-service-to-transfer-money-via-mobile-phones.html

Pigeon Forge woman didn’t apply for online loan, but bank sees unusual activity

By DON DARE 6 On Your Side Reporter
PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – What if you didn’t apply for a loan, but someone was fooling around with your checking account? A young woman was notified by her bank in Pigeon Forge about unusual activity with her account.
Kelly Hall is a customer at SmartBank. An alert account representative there noticed unusual activity on Kelly’s statement a few days ago.
“She said on the same day they took out the 13 cents in increments of six cents, four cents and three cents, and the bank was concerned someone was messing with my account and wanted me to be aware of it,” Kelly said.
She also says neither she nor her husband had applied for an online loan.
Kelly was told the company’s name was Cash Loan Today. There’s a phone number for the company on her statement.
Kelly talked with a service rep there. “She advised me that I had been approved for an $800 loan. When I asked how they got my information, she wasn’t able to tell me how they got this information to my bank.”
SmartBank President Billy Carroll said, “We were fortunate we saw it, happened to be doing some work on the account. We noticed it.”
He says when the service rep noticed the transactions, she contacted Kelly immediately.
“Sometimes those are legitimate transactions. In this case, they weren’t. In this case, they were unusual. That’s why our financial service rep asked,” Carroll said.
Kelly says she’s grateful the bank called her. “I have an IRS check that’s going to be deposited into that account, and it could be a large sum of money taken out without me knowing about it.”
Hoping to get information from the loan company, we called the toll free number on Kelly’s statement. A customer service rep said, “I apologize, even my supervisor cannot answer your questions.”
When 6 On Your Side checked the company’s website, we found it’s under construction.
We also found complaints online about the company. One said, “…went into my account and took $30 out without my permission. How did they get access to my account?”
“They told me once that they deposited the $800, they were going to take out the $30,” Kelly said.
There are steps you can take to protect your account. “If you’re online banking, log onto your account, look through your transaction history on a regular basis,” Carroll advised. “If you’re getting paper statements, open that statement every month and look through every transaction to make sure there is nothing unusual there.”
From now on, Kelly will check her account frequently. “Keep a close eye on it because you never know who is pulling money in and out of that account,” she advised.
Also, stay away from online loan companies. Dealing long distance can be troublesome. Doing business locally is easier and safer.

Article source: http://www.wate.com/story/16943946/pigeon-forge-woman-didnt-apply-for-online-loan-but-bank-sees-unusual-activity

Digital coupons: A growing trend

It’s a time honored tradition – cutting coupons out of the Sunday newspaper.
Now, you can leave that wallet stuffed with paper at home, thanks to coupons going digital.
Mother of six Meghan Caron spends most Sundays clipping coupons.
“It is a massive undertaking. I really anticipate the Sunday paper coming,” she said.
But keeping tabs on all those offers often adds up to stress and confusion.
“I have, then, like this little binder system that I use, and I try to sort of organize them by store,” she said.
Meghan hopes to cut back on clipping by using digital coupons. They’re promotions or discounts that are automatically loaded onto to your debit card, credit card, or store loyalty card. Simply use your plastic in-store or online to redeem the savings.
Janna Herron with bankrate.com says you’re about to see a digital coupon explosion.
“It is convenient. Consumers don’t have to stuff their purse or their wallet with a bunch of paper coupons, and they don’t have to worry about forgetting them, because it’s linked to their card,” said Herron.
Some e-coupons can be found directly on your credit or debit card statement. Others are available through third party web sites.
“Typically, you register your debit card, credit card, or store loyalty card on either the third party web site or your bank issuer’s web site,” said Herron. “And then, when you see a coupon that you want, you just click on it.”
And soon you’ll be able to download deals via billboards, magazines, and television, too.
“You scan a QR code, or you type in a star-star code on your mobile device, and that offer is linked right to your card,” said Tom Burgess with Linkable Networks, a company on the forefront of this technology. 
Meghan registered on mylinkables.com and racked up savings at a home improvement store.
“My savings there was between $5 to $10, which was very significant savings for us,” she said.
While e-coupons can save you dollars, Herron says it’s important to know that most services monitor your purchase history, so you can receive targeted coupons. Bankrate says that some credit card issuers are even selling that history to retailers.
“Consumers should read the privacy policy before signing up for these services so they know how the information is gathered, what is collected, who it’s being shared with,” said Herron.
Burgess says that Linkable Networks is committed to keeping your data anonymous.
“We deal with the banks directly. And the consumer’s data, all that personally identifiable information, your name, your address, and so forth, remains behind the firewall at the bank,” he said. 
Meghan says she feels safe, and the time and money it saves her is worth every penny.
“Just to even go out to eat as a family of 8 would be something that is a treat for us,” she said.
When it comes to debit and credit cards, the money you save is typically credited to your account 14 to 30 days after the purchase, so be vigilant about checking your […] Continue Reading…

Article source: http://www.fox19.com/story/16938884/digital-coupons-a-growing-trend

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New Setback for Greece Bailout As Meeting CanceledAPA meeting of the finance chiefs of the 17 euro countries to discuss Greece’s second multibillion bailout planned …

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BPI told to bring Corona’s monthly bank statements

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, is asking the Bank of the Philippines Islands (BPI)-Ayala branch manager to produce the monthly statements of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s checking account in the impeachment trial.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ordered bank manager Leonora Dizon to bring the documents during Wednesday’s hearing of Corona’s impeachment trial.
Dizon earlier revealed that Corona’s checking account with account number 1445-8030-61 had a total balance of P12,024,067.70 as of December 31, 2010.
This is lower than the P3.5 million in cash and investments Corona declared in his 2010 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).
Documents presented by the manager showed that the account had the following year-end balances for the following years:
December 31, 2005 – P149,767.36
December 31 2006 – P153,395.12
December 31 2007 – P5,069,711.18
December 31, 2008 – P1,525,872.87
December 31, 2009 – P678,501.83
December 31, 2010 – P12,024,067.70
During Tuesday’s hearing, Dizon said she also brought the year-end balances of the same account for years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2011.
The balances were submitted as evidence for the impeachment court but were not read out during Tuesday’s hearing.
Defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas objected to the Senate subpoena to request for any and all other financial instruments owned by Corona in the BPI-Ayala branch, saying that the subpoena was akin to a general search warrant.
However, Senate President and Presiding Officer Juan Ponce Enrile said the subpoena relates to only 1 particular account, and not any other account.
“If I open an account and I put P1 billion in it, I could make that P1 billion disappear by putting it in different money placement or in savings account or in other similar instruments and that is the thrust of the question of the gentleman from Cebu,” he said.
“It’s a reasonable demand…If we are going to prevent that, then we will become a party to wrongdoings and I am not ready to cover up for anybody,” he added.
Dizon told the impeachment court that Corona had no time deposits, certificates of deposit, settlement accounts, unit investment trust funds, or mutual funds in BPI Ayala.

Article source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/02/14/12/bpi-told-bring-coronas-monthly-bank-statements