Stay cool, but don’t get caught in overdraft
The annual “Shred It and Forget It” event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 23 at the United Center, parking lot E. Participants may bring up to 10 boxes of old, unwanted personal and financial documents, which will be shredded on the spot.
Organizers also will accept old or broken TVs, monitors, laptops, PCs, servers, data storage devices, printers, fax/copy machines, cell phones, VCRs, DVD players, video cameras and game consoles for recycling and safe disposal.
Updated: May 9, 2012 2:52PM
Dear Readers: The Fixer recently had a nice chat with Edward E., a longtime reader of this column who was in a real fix. A company he had never done business with somehow got hold of his debit card number and took $100 out of his account.
That would have been bad enough, but Edward’s account was a bit low on money. When that incorrect $100 debit hit, it sent his account into the red and triggered a $40 overdraft fee from his bank.
While his bank quickly disputed the original $100 debit and put that money back into Edward’s account, it balked at waiving the $40 overdraft fee. Only after Edward continued to complain did the bank finally agree to refund the fee.
Though Edward was exceptionally unlucky, he is far from the only consumer still being hit with huge overdraft fees, even after a change in Federal Reserve rules in August 2010 made it harder for banks to charge these fees to consumers. A survey released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that many consumers don’t understand their rights and don’t know how to avoid overdraft fees.
Before the change in the banking rules, banks were free to rearrange the order of pending transactions on a customer’s account to cause the maximum number of “bounced” transactions and a huge number of fees. Team Fixer used to regularly hear from consumers who’d dipped into the red at the start of a long weekend and on Monday morning wound up with hundreds of dollars in overdraft penalties on relatively small transactions.
Now, banks can’t charge you any overdraft fees unless you’ve opted in for overdraft protection. If you don’t opt in, you might have an embarrassing denial of your debit card at the store, but you won’t pay a fee.
The Pew report found that more than half of the people who got overdraft fees didn’t believe they had opted in for overdraft coverage. And 75 percent of respondents said they’d rather have a transaction declined than pay an overdraft fee.
If you are unsure about whether you’ve opted in for these fees, now might be a good time to ask your bank. For the full report, go to pewtrusts.org.
Dear Fixer: In early February, I contacted ADT to find out about installing a home security system in addition to having my renter’s insurance policy. A gentleman came to my home and showed me some products. I gave him $200 in cash and agreed to pay the remaining $200 upon installation.
Later, when I spoke with my husband, he felt the security measures were excessive.
After reviewing the system and looking at my renter’s policy, I decided to cancel when ADT called to confirm the installation date.
The man on the phone agreed to start the 30-day process of refunding my $200 deposit. I never got the deposit back. I have called and left voicemail messages, but can’t get through to anyone.
Please help me, Fixer!
Dear Lisa: You told The Fixer that when you considered getting a home security system, it was to prevent losing your money — not to give away $200 for nothing.
We got in touch with ADT’s PR director, Bob Tucker, at corporate offices in Florida. It turns out this was nothing sinister: Apparently, they had mailed you a money order for the $200 back in February but you never received it. Tucker guessed that it was an address mix-up but you said you never really found out what happened.
ADT ran a trace on the money order to confirm that it was never cashed by anyone else and then sent your refund to a currency exchange for you to pick up. The currency exchange was in Bellwood, a 40-minute drive from your home, which wasn’t so great, but you told us you’re relieved to have your money back.
This is a good chance to remind everyone that it’s usually best to put a deposit on a credit card rather than paying cash. Getting a refund on a credit card is a lot faster.
Fixer reader Mike Mannino forwarded a fake email to us that was so clever, we imagine quite a few people will click through. It came from firstname.lastname@example.org and claimed Amazon.com had canceled an order he’d placed.
But Mike hadn’t ordered anything from Amazon in a few months, so he knew not to click on the link. There are scores of online complaints about this scam. If you get a message like this, don’t click through. Besides moving you to a different website, the link could infect your computer with a nasty bug. (Thanks for the warning, Mike!)