Monday, March 30, 2009

Buyer Beware! Caregivers Take Notice

Recently a good friend of mine, an elderly woman we'll call "Mary", was contacted by Wells Fargo Bank. She consented to speak to the "nice man" on the phone right away-- after all this was her bank, could something be wrong? No, but after several minutes of chatting with the person she thought was a bank employee she had been talked into allowing Wells Fargo to deduct $25 a month from her account for an insurance policy she didn't want.

I was there when it happened and said "Mary, why did you do that?! Why would you buy insurance you didn't want?"

"Oh, don't you worry about a thing" she said. "It's free the first month! And when I get the paperwork I'll just cancel it. The nice man said I could do that any time."

"But why would you say yes to this in the first place?"

"Oh," she said. "You know those poor Wells Fargo people have a 'quota' to fill, don't you? If they don't sell so many policies a month they could lose their jobs. I couldn't let that happen!"

I was flabbergasted but she assured me that she would get a notice from the bank and when she got it she would cancel it, so I stashed the experience in my memory bank, in case it should matter some day, and let it go.

Well, the paperwork either never came or didn't look like what Mary had expected. She has a vague recollection of getting something from AIG but she "knew" she hadn't bought anything from them so she threw it away. Three months later both of us had forgotten all about the insurance buying incident and Mary found herself unable to buy groceries at the end of the month because $50 she counted on was "missing" from her account.

Now, luckily, Mary is not so demented that she didn't notice what was wrong and immediately called the bank. She only has age-related memory loss and perhaps some misguided judgment. Wells Fargo promised to cancel the policy and, hopefully, that will be the end of it. But what if Mary wasn't that on top of her bank account? Could this even happen to you?