ED Magedson – Founder
Bank of America Privacy Assist3901 Stonecroft Blvd Chantilly, Virginia United States of America
"YES. Please send my complimentary 3-in-1 Credit Report + 3 Credit Scores and activate my 30-day no-cost credit file monitoring with alerts."
I read the Activation Form for Bank of America Privacy Assist identity theft protection. I did not need identity theft protection, but why not? After all, it's FREE. The large words at the top of the page said clearly "30-day no-cost". I assumed after 30 days nothing would happen. I saw there was some other text, but I didn't read it. I signed my name and dated it 1/12/09. It also asked for my email address "(for fastest notifications)" and I wrote it. I mailed it back in the business reply envelope and promptly forgot the whole thing.
I received some letters from Bankof America Privacy Assist. I later learned they came once every three months. NONE of these letters even HINTED that the service is not free.
I did NOTreceive any email from Privacy Assist even though I gave them my email address. The service includes access to a website, but without receiving any emails I was not consciously aware of that. (The written letters did invite me to access the website, but again, I did NOT know that I was paying for it.)
I was not in the habit of auditing my monthly bank statements. I checked the big things like rent and salary.
In May 2010, I noticed a debit for $12.99 labeled "Privacy Assist" followed by numerical codes. I labeled it "What is this?" on my online banking with Bank of America, but I didn't follow up. I did NOT know that my right to appeal would expire in 60 days. I thought "Privacy Assist" was a code for how my student loans to Citibank were being paid. I did NOTrecognize "Privacy Assist" as the name of a separate entity. Had the statement read "Bank of America Privacy Assist" I probably would have discovered the fraud 4 months earlier and saved $51.96.
Upon reviewing statements through the summer, I noticed that Privacy Assist and my student loans were two separate things. When I saw three consecutive months of Privacy Assist, I remained silent no longer. I walked into a Bank of America branch and was told what this was, and I canceled it. I didn't ask when I signed up. I looked at home and noticed this unauthorized charge of $12.99 for the prior 19 months, a total of $246.81. That's 1% of my annual salary, stolen from my bank account surreptitiously! They didn't even tell me they were doing it!? I thought they would send me a bill, like the newspaper or electric company...when did I agree to this? What did I do?
I went back to Bank of America with a demand letter. The rep called Privacy Assist and arranged to send me a Proof of Enrollment. The Activation Form had in headline text a statement that I'd sign up for a "30-day no-cost" deal. In smaller print, it continued:
"By signing below and enrolling in the Bank of America Privacy Assist Premier credit monitoring service, I am entitled to review the membership materials for 30 days at no cost. Unless I notify you during my 30 day trial period to discontinue my membership by calling the Bank of America Privacy Assist Premier service tool-free number at 1.800.516.9561, my membership will automatically be continued at the $12.99 monthly membership fee. I authorize you to debit the membership fee from my Bank of America checking account each month. My satisfaction is important. Even after my 30 day no cost trial period, I may cancel at any time and will be under no further obligation." (The rest of the text is immaterial.)
Understand: I did not give my checking account number. I simply signed a form which said I'd authorize "you" (Intersections Inc.) to deduct $12.99 per month from my Bank of America checking account. But who gave Intersections Inc. my account number? Or, who gave Bank of America to give my account number to a third party company?
Most scams involve a company taking the consumer's credit card number, then billing it. I did not give any account number. All I did was to sign a form. I did not know it was possible to authorize a transaction without using a check, credit card, or some other financial instrument which contains an account number. The name of thistype of transaction is a "demand draft."
The legal basis for this type of free trial scam seems flimsy to me. 18 CFR 310, the Telemarketer Sales Rule, says thatif a telemarketer sells a free-to-pay conversion, i.e. a "free trial", and the telemarketer already has the consumer's account number, then the consumer MUST give at least the last four digits of his account number. This prevents the consumer from wondering: "How could they have charged me? They saidit was free, and they didn't ask for an account number."
I had EXACTLY the same thought. The only difference was: I replied to direct mail, not a phone call, so the telemarketer sales rule does not apply. I still believe this is fraud on general principles, but the net loss of $220.83 after I received the two months' mandatory refund from Intersections Inc. is too small to litigate.
My only opportunity was to be more aware when that solicitation came in the mail. Nobody should have to read that carefully to make sure that a "free trial" is actually free. On the contrary, the burden should be on the consumer to furnish an account number even if the solicitation comes by mail.
I strongly urge you to: (1) avoid Bank of America Privacy Assist and Intersections Inc. because they use dishonest marketing practices; (2) Read any contract carefully before you sign it because you never know when someone will set a nasty trap; and (3) Review every transaction on your monthly bank statements, even the small dollar transactions.
This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 01/25/2011 10:05 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Bank-of-America-Privacy-Assist/Chantilly-Virginia-20153/Bank-of-America-Privacy-Assist-Intersections-Inc-Free-Trial-Scam-Deceptive-Marketing-Ch-686842. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.
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