Tag-Archive for » banking «

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 | Author:

Privacy, Time, Money

I don’t like debit orders. I’ve never liked the idea that another entity can, at will, take almost any amount of my money (well … whatever’s available). A colleague pointed out the issue with MTN would have been avoided had I been using a debit order. Maybe the “convenience” factor isn’t such a bad thing.

I suppose the penultimate question here is whether or not you want the convenience and can trust institutions (in this case with your money) – or if you can’t trust them and are willing to forgo that convenience. In my case, even though I still question the convenience, I learned the hard way with MTN that it doubly can be inconvenient to have your connected world reduced to “remote island” status. Almost everyone today goes with the convenience factor.

Convenience

On the other hand, now a long time ago, I had a dispute with Planet Fitness where convenience was a double-edged sword. I reported their business practice to the Consumer Complaints Commission (since re-organised as the National Consumer Commission) and never got feedback from them. The gist of the issue is that Planet Fitness’s sales agent lied to me and a friend in order to get more commission/money out of my pocket.

I’m a Discovery Vitality member which gives many benefits, including reduced rates on Premium brands – mostly health-related of course, as Discovery is a Medical Aid/Health Insurance provider. To put it simply, Discovery is awesome. Vitality’s benefits cover gym memberships which further includes Planet Fitness. You still have to pay something, a small token of sorts, to Discovery, for the gym membership. But, after all, they WANT me to be healthy, so they don’t mind footing the bulk of the bill. But, apparently, this means Planet Fitness’ sales agents don’t get the commission!

So what does this result in? The result is that PF’s sales agent gave me an inflated figure for a “Vitality-based” membership. He lied. He then had me sign on the dotted line for an inflated price of a “regular” membership (yes, it was actually more than even a regular membership would have cost), ending up about 4 and 5 times as much as the Vitality-based membership.

Epiphanies

Some time in 2011 I finally wisened up to the costs I was supposed to be paying. Discovery I am sure wouldn’t be too happy about this fiasco. I spoke to the Manager at the gym, and I was assured that the entire contract would be scrapped. I’m not one for violence … unless its for sport … in an Octagon … but after my 5th visit to the Manager to ask why the Debit Orders were still happening, he told me he was surprised I hadn’t brought weapons with me for the visit. After a few more visits, the Manager had actually left Planet Fitness and explained to me that the “contract” was between myself and Head Office and that the local gym, apparently a franchise-style operation, had little to no say about whether or not it could be cancelled. If Head Office said no, tough luck.

By this point I’d lost it. I had my bank put a stop to the debit orders. It was a huge schlep: I had to contact the bank every month because the debit order descriptions would change ever so slightly. It also cost me a little every couple of months to “reinstate” the blocking service. I can’t help but think the banking system supports regular expressions but the staff don’t necessarily know how to use it.

Technically I’m still waiting on the CCC to get back to me (never happened – and of course they were re-organised as mentioned above so the case probably fell through the cracks). Of course, by that point PF also wanted to blacklist me for not paying!

The Unexpected Hero

A haphazard mention of the issue to Discovery (I think I called them about a dentist visit) resulted in a callback by one of Discovery’s agents. They then asked me to describe the problem, in detail and in writing, to better explain from my perspective what had really happened. I obliged. It turns out I was right about them not being “too happy” about it. In fact they really didn’t like it. About three weeks later, Planet Fitness refunded me in FULL for all monies that had ever been paid to them.

Discovery is Awesome. 🙂

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Monday, April 20th, 2009 | Author:

I’m looking at the South African banking system (partly a result of watching the Zeitgeist “documentary”) and, after finding my bank implicated most with regards to the SA-Banking Competition Commission wikileaks scandal, I’m putting serious consideration into switching banks.

What ethical banks are out there right now? I’ve even looked into Sharia (Islamic) banking because of their strict ethics laws but even there I’m looking at even more unknowns. I’m not Islamic and I have nothing against funding pork-related activities.

On that note, do you know if your bank has a code of ethics? If they’re public, where can we see these ethics codes?

Tell me about service levels I haven’t heard of before and which bank you believe deserves to handle my money.

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Sunday, April 19th, 2009 | Author:

I think the Internet is a scary place. Yes, me. Some days I find myself horrified to find the lowliest of criminal bastards trying to steal our livelihoods.

Yes, people, there are criminals out there and they want your money or they want to use you to make money. What’s even more scary is the lengths to which they are willing to go, even risking YOU. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

I received an email saying that I was being offered a job as a “Regional Assistant” and, though the details weren’t given, the email suggested that it was a legitimate opportunity. I replied asking about where they’d received my details and also about what they would require of me.

Being the skeptic I am, I thought I could spot scammers a mile away. How fortunate that I can still laugh at the idea.

A few hours later, they replied indicating that I’d soon receive further instructions. They’d “probably” been referred to me by a friend and they had a pile of referrals and so couldn’t specify which friend had recommended me. I waited patiently and left it to the back of my mind. “They’ve probably found a good candidate already and I’ve lost out”, I thought. “How nice that a friend might refer me. Obviously I’m Awesome.” (and daft :-/)

So later on, I receive my email with my “further instructions”. This is where I finally realised that I was dealing with scammers:

Hi. We’d like to start a trial task. Our customer will make a bank transfer to you this week. Please go to our site <site omitted> to submit the banking details where the transfer will go to. Once we’ve established a good transaction history, you will receive between 2-3 transfers per week (amounts of about R10  000 each except the first trial transfers).
Please confirm that you can start. We don’t send any transfers to your account until we receive confirmation from you.
On Monday you will receive notification, detailed information and instructions regarding the transfers. Thank you and have a lovely weekend.

Say what??? I checked out the web site in question and, without a doubt, this is a money laundering scheme done by professionals. They know what they’re doing and they probably launder millions every month. What’s more is that, inevitably, they will screw you over and get the cops to arrest YOU. These criminals can leave evidence behind implicating you even if all you’ve done is diligently moved money from one place to another… and kept a small percentage for yourself. 😛

Money laundering is where illegitimate money (stolen, probably) is transferred via third parties to appear more legitimate. You’re an accessory to the crime and, even worse, you’re even likely to be the victim of it. Recognise when an opportunity is too good to be true. I was fooled for a short while. Next up, given that a victim might give out a lot of personal details, the scammers might steal your identity and start to implicate you in fraudulent activities without you ever having done a thing.

If you happen to have already given any details such as the above where they wanted my banking details, contact your bank and inform them of the situation. They will give you the best possible advice on what to do next. If you’ve already responded to the mail but haven’t yet already given them the information they want, don’t reply any further. I’d also suggest calling your local police for further advice.

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