Mystery Checks in the Mail

Earlier this month, Julie warned us that Macy's had flipped her store card and sold her data to Citibank. I recently experienced something similar.

A few months ago, I received some “advance checks” in the mail from Bank of America. You know the ones — the kind of checks your credit card uses to entice you so take a cash advance. The problem was, I don't have an account with Bank of America. I did once, but I closed it in December of 1998

I shredded the checks and didn't think much about it.

A few weeks ago, I received a second batch of advance checks in the mail from Bank of America. This made me a little concerned. I took a closer look. They had my name and address correct, but the account number didn't match any I'd ever had with any financial institution. I thought about calling the toll-free number, but didn't.

I shredded the checks, but then wished I had actually called to see what was going on.

Today I received a third batch of checks. Because I'm not completely stupid, I stopped in my tracks and dialed the toll-free number. This account had $7,500 of available credit. Apparently the last payment was made on 20 January 2005.

I fired up Quicken and dug through my old accounts. During the first few months of 2005, I had been in full Debt Snowball mode. I was paying off debts left and right. I wondered if this mysterious account was related to one of those old debts.

I waited on hold for twenty minutes. When I finally spoke to a live human being, I had barely begun to explain the situation when he interrupted me. “I'll bet you used to have an account with MBNA,” he said. “I show here that you bought something from Apple Computer in 2004. When we merged with MBNA, we took over this account.”

Aha! So that was it. “But I thought the account was closed,” I said.

“No sir,” he said.

Well, it is now

In retrospect, I've learned several things from this experience:

  • When I'm finished with a loan account, such as the one I'd used to purchase my last desktop computer, I'm going to close the account. Yes, my credit score may be dinged, but I don't care. Better that than mystery checks.
  • When something strange comes in the mail, I'm not going to just ignore it. If I don't know what it is, I'm going to do my best to find some answers.
  • I'm actually going to establish a routine for checking my credit reports. I've been using one free check every few moths, but I don't really have a system. My last check was on April 26th. I'll do my next check on November 1st, and then do one every four months thereafter. (Read more about your free annual credit reports.)

Finally, I'm not going to be afraid to buy top-of-the-line Macintosh products. Though this seems completely unrelated, I'm sure, the computer I bought with the original account is still going strong after four years. Not bad!

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Jonathan
Jonathan
13 years ago

I had a similar experience with Bank of America. I started receiving checks from Bank of America and tied it back to an MBNA line of credit that I had closed two years prior – I even had the confirmation letter from MBNA stating that the account was closed, and a copy of their refund check (I had actually overpaid by about $100 when I finally paid off the MBNA account).

I was, and still am, very concerned that their tendency to “accidentally” reactivate closed accounts does not reflect positively on their security measures to protect my personal data.

Jared
Jared
13 years ago

I had a similar issue with a Foley’s card, which became a Macy’s card. I worked for Foley’s years ago, and the employee discount program was managed as a percentage off on the Foley’s credit account. After I left Foley’s, I closed the account – or so I thought. After checking my credit report, I noticed a line that made no sense – and after some Googling, I found out that it was this account, which was converted when Foley’s became Macy’s. As for the credit reports, I check both mine and my wife’s on our anniversary (well, around our… Read more »

Mira
Mira
13 years ago

I hate those checks in the mail also. I have a chase visa and every few months they send me blank checks with my statements. Worst yet, they write on the envelope “check inside”. I always shred them as soon as I get them but I often wonder what would happen if someone decided to use one of my checks??!! Anyway, I don’t have long to worry. My Christmas gift to myself will be to shred my last two credit cards…no more statements, no more checks in the mail! I’ll be debt FREE! On another note, I do use the… Read more »

Aimee
Aimee
13 years ago

This is just as bad as another practice that closes accounts without you knowing! It’s a very good plan to have your credit report checks on a schedule.

It actually really bothers me that they can do this sort of thing. All the more reason not to use CC I guess! Or to just get down to having only one.

John
John
13 years ago

I agree that checking your Credit report every 4 months is a good idea by spreading the 3 credit bureaus over 12 months. Also don’t forget to call and let them know your new address every time you move. You certainly don’t want someone else receiving those blank checks in the mail !!

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
13 years ago

I never get “advance checks” but apparently my name has found its way onto a number of interesting mailing lists: I get stuff from Fisher Investments, Donald Trump, and Robert Kiyosaki, plus tickets to a variety of seminars where something overpriced will be pitched.

Anne
Anne
13 years ago

I had to call BofA recently as well. I had a credit card with them years ago that I never use. A few months ago they sent me a new credit card with a new account number. I never activated it. Then I got some of those advance checks and finally decided I needed to take care of it. Fortunately I wasn’t on hold long, but it is very troublesome to me that they would issue a card I never applied for. They didn’t offer any explanation, either, when I asked to close the account. I’m moving overseas in January… Read more »

The Tim
The Tim
13 years ago

I hate those unsolicited blank checks! I mean, they would be great if they didn’t debit from a credit account that I own…

Discover sends me a batch of those every few months. I should really call them to see if I can get them to stop sending them. Just seems like an invitation for someone to steal my mail and run up illegitimate charges on my (rarely-used) account.

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

just call them to cancel sending those checks. second, when you close an account, request a confirmation letter.

Russell Heimlich
Russell Heimlich
13 years ago

I had a mysterious charge show up on my credit card bill from WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS after digging around on the Internet I learned this -> http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/119/ripoff0119840.htm Apparently a company sold my data to them and they automatically enrolled me into a subscription program. I quickly called my credit card company and got the charge reversed. Weird stuff. About the free credit reports: The easiest system for me is on my birthday, I just get a copy of all three. Probably not the most protective use of my 3 free reports, but if you make it a habit on your birthday you… Read more »

kitty
kitty
13 years ago

“I had a mysterious charge show up on my credit card bill from WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS after digging around on the Internet ” I had this problem too. Looked over my bill and noticed a charge I couldn’t figure out and didn’t have a receipt for. I got their phone number from my credit card company to find out what it was, then called them directly. They claimed I signed up for it even if I didn’t remember doing so. They reversed it and cancelled the whole thing. I’ve never realized it when I could’ve possibly signed up for it, I never… Read more »

SR
SR
13 years ago

If you call your credit card bank, they will stop sending the checks if you request it. Years ago, I requested Chase to stop sending them, they did.

FinanceAndFat
FinanceAndFat
13 years ago

These credit card companies/banks are so evil! It really bothers me how these new accounts ‘mysteriously’ appear.

Creative Investor
Creative Investor
13 years ago

FinanceAndFat: I wouldn’t go as far as saying that they’re evil, but some of them really do have some questionable practices. It’s also curious to see this kind of checks filling up the mail universe while credit card companies offer “premium identity protection” services. They wouldn’t be, by any chance, trying to improve our chances of having an identity stolen by sending so much sensitive information so frequently just so they’ll have more customers for those “premium” services? 🙂 Just a thought.

60 in 3 - Fitness and Health
60 in 3 - Fitness and Health
13 years ago

I opened a store credit card 16 years ago during my first year of college, used it once and never thought about it again. Two years ago, as part of my efforts to get my financial life in order, I checked my credit report. Lo and behold, that account is still there. Now it’s almost impossible to close since the store is out of business. Never just “forget” about old accounts. Make sure they are closed. Actually, a better lesson learned is to never open these accounts in the first place. Focus on one to three good credit cards which… Read more »

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