Read All the Fine Print

Updated insider information by Chellie Campbell, author of “The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction”

 

315-November 11

“Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is when you don’t.”—Unknown

 

After my bankruptcy, I needed to reestablish good credit, so I applied for a “secured credit card.” This is a credit card that is issued when you put money in a savings account at the bank that issues you the card. The credit limit on the card is equal to the amount of money in your savings account. With time and a good credit history, they may periodically raise your limit without requiring that you deposit additional funds in savings. (Of course, they are dealing with people with problem credit, so they charge you a hefty interest rate for any money you borrow on the card.)

I was pleased to receive a letter from them after several years, stating that because of my “excellent record” with them that I qualified for a $1,000 upgrade reward certificate. (After problems with credit, hearing that you have an excellent record with anyone is music to your ears.) I thought the additional credit might come in handy some day. The letter requested that I sign a form and send it back to them. I started to do this immediately, but, habitually wary of small print, I continued reading the letter.

Am I glad I did. They wanted a fee of $75 for the upgrade, which basically meant I was paying cash for the privilege of giving them the opportunity to earn more money. I didn’t like that very much, but thought perhaps the fee would be worth the increased limit on the card.

I kept reading. Then, on the back page, at the bottom, in small print, I found a statement that made my blood boil. If you accepted their offer, the annual percentage rate would be changed—from an already high 19.8 percent to 23.99 percent! As if 19.8 percent wasn’t bad enough. Thank heavens I read the entire letter. But I know most people don’t.

I wrote them a letter immediately, declined their offer, and strongly protested their campaign and business ethics. I never heard from them. But several months later, there was an article in the newspaper describing a class action lawsuit that had been filed against them for unfair business practices. What goes around, comes around.

Ignored any fine print lately? Mark Twain once said that the person who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the person who can’t read them. That goes for reading the fine print, too.

Today’s Affirmation: “I am an intelligent consumer—I know all and see all!”

There are a lot of sharks out there – some individual and some institutional. It makes me see red when I read about institutions taking advantage of consumers by hiding behind small print or verbage that no one can understand. Sharks think that kind of thing is good business because it makes them more money. I remember a business seminar leader who told his clients to automatically send out second notices even to companies who had already paid because sometimes they would mistakenly pay their bill twice and you could keep it. Like he didn’t know that is stealing?? Sheesh.

One morning, I read on msn.com about yet another accountant for movie stars who misused their position of trust to steal from their clients:

An accountant admitted Thursday that he made “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” actress Tamara Tunie a real-life crime victim by stealing more than $1 million from her, the Kansas City Symphony’s music director and other clients.

 Joseph Cilibrasi, who was Tunie’s business manager for more than a decade and cultivated other clients in the arts, pleaded guilty to grand larceny and other charges. He used some of the stolen cash to finance his own forays into entertainment, including investing in movies and Broadway shows and hiring a screenwriter to pen a script about a historic building, prosecutors say.

Cilibrasi’s plea deal calls for two-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half years in prison. He is free, pending a Jan. 4 sentencing. Cilibrasi, 51, told a Manhattan judge he secretly opened a credit card account in Tunie’s name — and got his own card on the account by falsely listing himself as her husband — and wrote checks to himself from her accounts without her permission.

Dolphins, beware. We want to be loving and trusting, but you’ve got to be careful who you do that with. There are sharks in dolphins clothing swimming in the oceans!