How Banks, Marketers Aid Scams
By Karen Blumenthal – The Wall Street Journal
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how difficult it was for our family to stop con artists from scamming an elderly relative who was convinced that he was on the verge of winning big lottery and sweepstakes prizes.
Digging into our family’s experience yielded another surprise: Some common business practices may have actually helped the scams continue, such as the sale of direct marketing lists and banks’ moves to automatically cover overdrafts—an issue that President Barack Obama has flagged for attention under his proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
When our relative began to fall behind on bills, he agreed to give power of attorney to a son, who started paying the mortgage and other big bills, as well as reducing the amount available in his dad’s checking account.
What the son didn’t count on was that the bank would automatically cover up to several hundred dollars a month of his father’s overdrafts, which essentially gave him more money to send to scammers. In addition, he was charged $33 for every overdraft—running up hundreds of dollars in fees. When the son called Sovereign Bank, his father’s longtime bank, he was told that the protection was standard and that he couldn’t turn it off.
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