Senior Citizen Slamming

For those of you unaware of the marketing concept of slamming, my definition is “tricking” your competition’s customer(s) into changing service, without them being aware they are doing it. The “slam” is done by someone cold calling on the phone or showing up at your door. The tactics are reminiscent of the Fuller Brush Sales techniques (i.e. do anything to get in the front door, and you will have a sale). The bigger problem is that the door-to-door reps are Senior Citizen Slamming (i.e. tricking the elderly into services they don’t need or want).

More and more seniors are being duped, by these new age technology press gangs, into services they may not want. Someone very close to me was switched from one Television “cable” provider to another, and I still don’t know what happened exactly. I have been able to fix the situation, thanks to some help from friends in well placed spaces, but this makes me concerned about what about other seniors?

News services are full of stories of seniors being duped into giving up money to hucksters, this must stop. The first comment I get that goes, “caveat emptor” gets a swift kick in the behind.

Seniors and Technology

At our Church we are trying to help seniors with technology, and a few of us get together on a Saturday morning and try to answer parishioners’ questions about technology. The technology problems that bring these seniors to our get together are usually:

  • A loved one has purchased technology for the senior, thinking it would be a good thing. The problem arises when the Senior isn’t given any instruction or help with the technology, so it usually ends up sitting on a shelf being unused.
  • The senior has been duped into purchasing a different type of technology by a sales
    person who claimed, “it works just like the other thing”. (no an Android phone and an iPhone are not the same to a Senior).
  • The senior inherited the technology from their spouse, who has since passed away.

Inevitably we try to help out as best we can, but it is infuriating to see how many Seniors are being tricked into buying expensive technologies that they are not able to use.

What To Do About Senior Slamming

I may sound dramatic, but I view slamming as senior abuse, but here are some simple things you can do to help your neighbours and loved ones in these situations:

  1. If you buy a Senior loved one technology (no matter how simple) sit with them until they feel comfortable using it. You simply deciding, ” … it is easy to use, they will figure it out …” is arrogance on your part. What would you do if someone gave you a mimeograph machine and told you to put out 100 leaflets with it? Never assume technology is obvious (to anyone). This mentoring may take a while, but it is important to the senior.
  2. If scum bag door to door folks trying to sell services are in your area, and you know you have older neighbours, warn them about these snake oil sales droids. Call your neighbour, or better still walk over to their place before the sales scum get there, and help your neighbours. For those who say my characterization of door to door folks as scumbags is harsh, you are wrong.If someone comes to my door to sell me a service they are either:
    • Viewing me as an idiot because I can’t figure out how to call to get their services
    • Viewing me as an easy mark.My only hope is that folks who do this kind of predatory sales trickery one day fall prey to similar tricks, or in the next life inhabit the same level of Dante’s Inferno reserved for Usurers (Circle 7, I believe)
  3. Follow up with the senior about any phone scams going on too. Remind them that no one from the CRA will ever call them and ask for money, and that if a “loved one” calls asking for money in a foreign country, they should be skeptical.

Help our seniors, I will be one soon, and so will you.

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Auto Loading Your Loyalty Card is a Bad Idea

I ran into a very bad issue with my Starbucks loyalty card about a few years ago, when all the information in the Starbucks database was hacked and my account information was stolen. This information hack allowed the thieves to create their own version of my Starbucks card, and they “went to town” on it.

Let me digress , remember that the Starbucks loyalty card is not a credit card per se, it is a card which is “filled” from a money source so that you can buy things (note I said things not just coffee) at Starbucks (and collect allegiance points and such). You can “fill” the card from a bank account, a credit card or even your Pay Pal account, and you can fill it one time or you can set up the “Auto Load” mechanism. The auto-load mechanism will take money automatically when your loyalty account balance drops to zero (or a preset threshold), and this is where the hackers found their angle.

The scam seems to run like this, once your account or loyalty card is “cloned” someone goes into a Starbucks store, and buys $100 worth of things (most times just a gift card), and then the auto-load kicks in, takes money from its source (Credit Card, Bank Account, etc.,) and then the thief go to another store and will buy another loyalty card, and this continues on until the account is flagged or in my case, I saw what was going on and called to cancel the auto-load. The only reason I knew this was happening was because I got notifications on my phone telling me that the auto-loads happening.

Loyalty Card Scam
A Graphic Rendition of the Scam

In my case I was lucky enough to catch it early, and Starbucks was smart enough to refund me all the money taken (after 15 business days).

Since this incident I have gone to any other loyalty cards that I have like this and turned off the auto-load option, to stop this scam from happening again (some examples might be a Tim Horton’s card or maybe your Subway Card?).

This is not a commentary on the Starbucks Brand or Coffee (I still drink it and enjoy it), but a reminder of the fact that the easier it is for you to spend money, the easier it is for the scammers to find a way in to get at your money (and spend easily as well).

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No Bank Would Do That! (or the Ideal Bank Customer)

Found this classic post about what a Bank might think is an ideal bank customer .

It has been pointed out that my post yesterday about a Real Service for Chronic Over Spenders is at best naive at worst unlikely to ever happen. Why wouldn’t a bank run a service like this? The answer is simple, it does not make them any money.

The Ideal Bank Customer

Banks make money on:

  • Customers who carry balances on their credit cards.
  • Customers that use the over-draft service available to them.
  • Folks with bad credit that don’t get preferential interest rates.
  • Consumers who do not carry the minimum balances in their bank accounts to get free banking (and thus pay $25 a month in service fees)
  • Debtors who do not pay back their loans quickly (i.e. they do not make over payments)

This is an interesting paradigm for the Banks.

Banks must portray themselves as being helpful, trustworthy and someone who wants you to succeed in your financial journey, when in fact anyone who does succeed, does not make the bank a lot of money. I have friends who have paid off their mortgages in 5 years instead of 25 years, saving themselves tens of thousands of dollars (but in turn costing the bank tens of thousands of dollars in lost interest earnings), yet the bank must publicly say that this is a good customer, even though they are bad for their business.

An ideal bank customer makes minimum payments on their debts (especially their credit cards), incurs many service fees (or penalties) and rarely if ever talks to anyone in the bank about their issues. Reading that sentence it seems to be an oxymoron, in that it seems to be a description for a bad client, but if all you look at is the bottom line banks will fight over getting these customers.

How do they fight over them? They offer interest free credit cards (for the first six months), and lower interest rates on loans (for the first year), and other interesting marketing gimmicks (free iPods even). These customers make banks much more money than someone who is careful about their debt load, and that keep meticulous records of every purchase and pay things off quickly.

Conclusions

This week I have let my imagination run a little wild, on the problem of how to help people who spend too much or that are chronically in debt, but at the end of it the answers are evident:

God helps those that helps themselvesAnonymous

The banks will help you, but be careful of the help you get Big Cajun Man

It is kind of like the guns don’t kill people, people kill people argument the NRA uses, in an obtuse way of thinking. People get into debt trouble because they can’t control their spending, and try to fix their spending issues with more debt, which the bank gladly obliges, and the financial death spiral (TM) begins.

Final conclusion:Getting out of debt is hard work, choose your tools to get out of debt carefully (unless you would like to try out a prototype Financial Shock Collar, then contact me).

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TV Show: Financial Squeegee Scam

Around Ottawa (and other cities) the Police are running a new “scam” to catch folks that are on their Cell Phones while driving (which in Ontario is against the law).

The first scam is a “homeless” person standing on a highway off ramp with a hand written sign on a piece of box card board, who approaches a car, and if the person looks closely at the sign it says:

I am Sergeant BCM of the Ottawa Police, you have been caught talking on your cell phone while driving, please pull your car over.

Or some similar sentiment to that. Evidently it has been quite successful, and there are variants out there on this thematic concept as well (“Squeegee Kids” that are actually cops, that can catch you on the phone as well). One of the cops claims he collected over $10 in change as well!

Mean Spirited TV Show Idea

This got me thinking is there something we could try for a TV show to run this kind of scam on the financial side of things. We should set up a store front  for a “Pay Day Loan” or cheque cashing store (in an affluent neighbourhood).

Another thing we can do is have lots of posters “advertising” cheque cashing services which actually say things like “Only losers would use this service” and “We are going to take all your money and leave you broke” and other great stuff like that (with scantily clad women as part of the advertising as well). We could call it the “We Screw You Pay Day Loan Service“.

When people come in, have the “teller” ask lots of questions like:

  • How much do you earn in a year?
  • Do you have a bank account?
  • Why do you need to use this service?
  • You realize this service is designed to screw you out of your money?

If it turns out that this is obviously a person who shouldn’t be using the service berate the “customer”  but if they continue to insist they need to use the service, tell them they are on “BCM’s Financial Follies“.

Yes, it sounds like a mean-spirited nasty show, so that is why I am positive it will be a hit!

Are there other variants on this scam that could make this TV Show into a series? A hedge fund version of the store front scam?

 

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Why Complain? Why NOT Complain?

More than once I have touched on the subject of whether it is better to suffer in silence or to complain about bad service or when you feel you have been treated badly. This past weekend reinforced my belief that the only people who suffer in silence are martyrs-in-waiting, but then again Martyrs typically end up being burned at the stake (OK that was Joan of Arc, but you see my point).

We were staying at a hotel in Toronto, because my daughter was playing in a basketball tournament. The first night there, we learned that the room we were given had a big noise problem (it faced into the atrium area of the hotel, and the sliding glass door did not close properly). My wife (not a shrinking violet) called and complained, thus we ended up with a new room (the next day) and free breakfast. Was this suitable compensation for my son not sleeping enough? Not really, but it was better than nothing.

We then had another incident on the next night with a drunken woman kicking a door on our floor (luckily not our door) at 2:30 AM, I complained to the manager, and from that I seem to have received a discount on our rooms for the weekend.

I would have thought this was the least complaining most people would do, but I have had more than one person comment to me that they would have never complained about these incidents, and all I can think is, really? You would sit there and suffer in silence in a noisy room or when a drunken woman is keeping you awake?

If you complain the worst answer you can get is, “I am sorry, we can’t do anything for you“, rarely will the person you are complaining to threaten your life (note I say rarely, and once that did happen to me), so why not say something?

Remember I have said before with Free Banking if you do not complain or at least question things, you are going to have to live with your situation (and I question whether you are allowed to complain about it either). Am I out of line with this point of view?

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