Capital One Invents New Way To Rip You Off For $500

Capital One accidentally sent a customer with a closed Capital One credit card a check for $500. She cashed the check and now CapO wants its money back… so badly that they reopened the closed credit card just so it could bill her. They also added a $1.42 finance charge. When asked by The Oregonian, a consumer advocate and official with the Office Of The Comptroller of Currency both said they had never heard of a company reopening a closed credit card for this reason before. What a brilliant new scam, here’s a check for $500 dummty dum dum two months pass oh wait guess what that was actually a loan, pay up, bitch. In all seriousness, don’t cash unexpected checks, you’re just asking for trouble.

(Thanks to Ellis!) (Photo: Getty)

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  1. Parting says:

    ”don’t cash unexpected checks, you’re just asking for trouble”

    Yep, especially coming from a credit card company.

  2. tdatl says:

    I’ve read a lot over the years about Capital One’s subprime practices, and they’re certainly unethical, but the consumer is accountable in this case! She’s just dumb. I’d bet money the enclosure with the check said it was a loan subject to finance charges & some outrageous interest rate.

  3. Tallanvor says:

    From the article:

    “Fink didn’t think she’d overpaid her bill but wasn’t sure. Since she was out of a job and could use the money, she cashed the check.

    ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have, but it was my name on the check,’ Fink said.”

    Someone sends you a check you don’t really think is yours, you cash it rather than making any inquiries about it, and then you get upset when they decide they want their money back?

    Granted, Capital One should have given her a chance to pay before reopening the account, but come on, expecting them to just write off the money? That’s just stupid.

    Here’s a link since it isn’t (at least at the moment) in the original post:
    [www.oregonlive.com]

  4. Bladefist says:

    In this case I think she should get to keep the money. It was capital ones fault. In a case where they transfer a huge sum of money to your account, I think it’s best to not spend that because thats someone elses money and its not their fault it got there. But CapitalOne did this to themselves. I wonder what rights she has under the law, if someone writes you a check, it’s now your money.

  5. coan_net says:

    What did she think the $500 check was for? Did it have fine print on it that she agreed to terms?

  6. acasto says:

    @Bladefist, it’s not your money until you sign and cash/deposit it, and in doing so you typically agree to whatever their terms and conditions are. This woman was stupid, plain and simple!

  7. EricaKane says:

    If anyone bothers to read the article, it says:

    “Nine months later, she received a $500 check in the mail from the McLean, Va., company with a note saying it couldn’t put the money directly into her account because it was closed.”

    Now tell me why that person shouldn’t have cashed that check. Maybe there is more writing on the check (i.e. standard credit card advances check) that wasn’t disclosed, but AT THIS POINT, I would side with the lady.

    I would tell CapOne to shove it..$500 is worth a trip to small claims court.

  8. ianmac47 says:

    This sounds like the kind of check you should take to a shady check cashing place, take the money and run.

  9. loueloui says:

    I don’t know who to root for in this one. The consumer is pretty dumb for cashing this check, which I would normally consider to be hr fault. However this is Capital One, the sleaziest of the sleaze we’re talking about. If there was a disclosure it was probably written in 3 point type. In disappearing ink. In Chinese.

  10. sxs3200 says:

    This was probably one of the spam checks they send out (I get them too). It is VERY apparent if you pay attention that it is nothing other than a cash advance.

  11. barfoo says:

    @Bladefist: You’re assuming she received an envelope with a check and nothing else in it. It’s far more likely there was a contract along the lines of “by cashing this check, you agree to reopen this line of credit, at these terms….”

    If someone writes you a check, and you deposit it, it’s your money, but you may also be incurring obligations. If I agree to paint your house, and you give me a check for $500 up front, I have to paint your house; if I fail to do so, I can’t simply claim that the $500 is “my money.” If you loan me $500, as Capital One seems to have done here, I am going to owe you $500 plus interest. The fact that I get a check from you in the mail doesn’t make it my money with no string attached.

    The only question is how clear the material they sent her was. If it was written in a misleading way–for example, if it said, “Here’s a $500 gift!”, then she might have a case, even if the fine print describes the other conditions. But such a thing would be unlikely to get by the corporate lawyers. It seems much more likely that she failed to read the fine print.

  12. BStu says:

    $500 isn’t some massive, completely impossible to think is yours kind of sum. Heck, its less than a stimulus package. While I agree that you still shouldn’t cash it, I don’t think we can treat this like those people who find a million dollars suddenly in their bank account.

    For one thing, it was sent to her as a check not mysteriously deposited into her account. I’m pretty sure if I send someone a check and then go, “Opps, I was wrong” I wouldn’t be allowed to get my money back, much less finance charges. But I guess I don’t have the same rights as a bank. Of course, if the bank sent her a product worth $500 and then went “Opps,” they wouldn’t get that back either.

    But the bottom line is $500 is a realistic amount. I’ve inadvertantly double payed some months by paying online, forgetting, and paying again online. Its something you could do without realizing it.

    Even if the Capital One is within their rights to get the money back, they obviously are NOT within their rights to reopen a closed account and charge finance charges to do so. The woman did not act negligently in cashing the check and the bank has no authority to unilaterally subject her to these fees just because it made a mistake.

  13. barfoo says:

    @ianmac47: Go to a check-cashing place with the check that’s linked to YOUR credit account and SSN? You’re even dumber than the woman in the article!

  14. yesteryear says:

    yeah, she should never have cashed the check. case closed. sure capital one is shady, but they are a credit card company, not the oregon state department of unemployment benefits.

    the upside is that the woman who cashed the check has now proven to be mentally incapable and might be able to qualify for disability benefits as well!

  15. In all seriousness, don’t cash unexpected checks, you’re just asking for trouble.

    No kidding.

  16. cmdr.sass says:

    But unexpected checks are the best kind!

  17. FilthyHarry says:

    You know, it makes you wonder if people incorporated themselves, and did all their financial stuff through their company, could you charge these companies ‘service fees’ for when they screw up and make you deal with them? You know, just start sending Capital One fer instance bills for $2.50 ‘service fee’ then take em to small claims court for failing to pay, report them to various credit agencies.

  18. satoru says:

    To me it sounds like one of those ‘checks’ that actually indenture you to the credit card company. This seems kind of new for credit cards, it’s more commonly used by utilities to make you change your contract to a ‘newer’=’more expensive’ type of service.

    So why would she have gotten it if her account was closed. Most likely, it came from the third party deals department at Capital One, which sends out mailing like this, but was not aware that the account was closed. You’d be surprised how disconnected these organizations are.

  19. ShortBus says:

    These are convenience checks. CapOne mails me them *at least* once a month. In the envelope is a promotional letter explaining what they are, plus there’s enclosure with four checks: the first is a $500 one made out to the card holder, and three additional checks are blank (both the payee and the amount). The kicker is that *you*, the card holder, have to sign the signature line.

    I’m sorry, this person simply thought that they could scam a credit card company (“hehe… they must have forgot I closed my account… FREE MONEY!”) There is zero possibility that they would confuse these checks for actual no-strings-attached $500, esp. when she had to sign it to herself.

    I hate CapOne and only keep the account open because it’s the oldest one on my credit report, but the consumer is 100% to blame here.

  20. Tallanvor says:

    I don’t see why this is such a head scratcher… Somebody probably either made a $500 payment, or a company was trying to credit an account (processing a refund, for example), and screwed up the account number and accidentally put in this woman’s old account number instead.

    Capital One’s automated system saw that the account was closed or at a $0 balance and mailed a check (they want you to owe them money, not the other way around, after all). Somebody caught the mistake and the $500 was debited from the account, causing it to be reopened, and the money was credited to the proper account.

    This really isn’t an example of a company doing a horrible thing. The error was caught within two months. –It’s not like they tried to come back a year later and claim the money back.

    The bottom line is that the lady should never have cashed the check. If she were to send it back right away, she could probably successfully ask them to remove the finance charge and close the account again.

  21. backbroken says:

    The only thing these checks make convenient is identity fraud.

  22. About those convenience checks:

    I get them mailed to my house all the time. I’ve called both cards that send them and have asked them not to. If those checks were stolen from my mailbox and cashed — would I be responsible?

    Also, if the credit card companies continue to send me these convenience checks after I have asked to not recieve said checks, what’s my recourse with my credit card companies?

  23. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    Too much missing information.

    I’m going to assume that the check was an ordinary check, and not an unsolicited loan check covered with or attached to a bunch of fine print repayment information. I’m also assuming that it wasn’t one of those “live checks” drawn on your own credit card account.

    All that said, I would argue that the money is a gift – just like receiving unsolicited merchandise in the mail. If the bank disagrees, they are welcome to take the issue to the appropriate venue – court.

    But re-opening a closed account without permission, and adding several thousand dollars in “charges” that the consumer did not make in order to recoup monies unrelated to that account has got to be illegal.

  24. smohrs says:

    I just received a check from Capital One a mere 4 days ago. Although I have had Capital One accounts in the past, I no longer have any open ones-that I know about! This check is not a convenience check (we get them all the time with our other credit card companies), and it did not come with any letter, or information attached-nada, nothing. It is a basic Voucher style check with the notation expense check, accounts payable on the front and on the voucher section it has an invoice number, voucher ID, date, gross amount and my name and correct address along with the sum of $422.21.
    I have not cashed it. I don’t know what type of scam is going on with this check, but I am contacting someone other than CapitalOne to find out! At first I thought it was some sort of class action lawsuit refund, for all the times they charged me fees for overlimit, overdue, overcharging, undercharging, paying more than the minimum, having a bad hair day, etc…But after reading all these horror stories (which I was not the least bit surprised to hear) I am leaning towards the belief that this is some weird sort of scam they have going. Expecially strange in light of the time frame…two weeks ago I checked my credit report and had to notify all three credit bureaus of mistakes on my report, a few of them were associated with “CapitalOne”! big surprise!! I would love to hear if anyone else has received a similar type check.

  25. BStu says:

    Are people even reading the article? It clearly states that she was sent the check not as convenience check but with the implication that it was refunding an overpayment since the account was closed. She was later told by Capitol One that she was sent the check in error. None of this is the standard operation of a convenience check.

    Even if it were, I would hope it is not legal for a bank to send people that do not have an account with them such a check as a means of initiating a new account. Those things are shady to begin with, but to send them to people you don’t do business with is deceitful.

  26. TheBigLewinski says:

    What a dumb ass, doesn’t she reconcile her accounts? Guess she will have to get a “payday” loan to reimburse BoA.

  27. watchout5 says:

    @BStu: Seriously, I’d take them to small claims court over it. 90% of the time they don’t even show up. These kinds of practices should be considered fraud, think of how many people would cash a check they get in the mail if this was a common practice. They fucked up and they should have cut their losses and thank whatever they hell they pray to that it was only 500 bucks. Since they’re a greedy soul sucking corporation they thought they could get away with demanding the money back and destroying someone’s credit in the process. It’s websites like this that give us all insight into how these companies really try to do business and give us the most information possible when making a choice on credit.

  28. Froggmann says:

    This is why I shread all “convience” checks. Unless I’m expecting the check I don’t use the check.

  29. Zimorodok says:

    When I ported my cell number from Verizon, they sent me a pro-rated refund check to cover my last, partial, month. 4 weeks later, they sent another refund check. Added together, they both just about equaled a month of service. Both were in those “tear off the three ends and unfold” check mailers.

    I went over both of them diligently for any fine print that would suggest “account reactivation” or somesuch, but there was nothing. The second one I even scanned & saved on the computer as proof in case they try to pull some shenanigans.

    Back on topic; Capitol One send me those blank checks every other month. I turn them into confetti. Too risky.

    I can see how the OP could be confused by this, which to me is a particularly scummy method of reopening a closed account with a nice fat balance. It doesn’t smell like their standard cash-advance or balance-transfer checks.

  30. jtheletter says:

    @ShortBus: but the consumer is 100% to blame here.
    OK, I agree that most of the responsibility falls on this woman who either didn’t read the fine print or thought she could get away with “free” money or just didn’t keep track of finances, but to say it’s 100% her fault is not correct either. Let’s not forget that it if the CC company, or whatever affiliate, wasn’t sending out scammy checks to people, especially ones whose accounts are already closed, then there wouldn’t be this problem to begin with. CC Companies do everything they can to rope people in and get hooks on their finances. To send someone a check that says “free money for you!” and then print the declaration of independence worth of fine print somewhere is pretty shady. Yes, it’s legal, but since the terms are specifically designed to be difficult to understand or even find, it smacks of intent to defraud. Let’s give the CC company at least 10% fault on this one since its THEIR practices that prey on unsuspecting or less fiscally savvy people.

  31. ELC says:

    @chouchou: No doubt, she’s dumb. We get those in EVERY credit card statement. It drives me crazy because it’s just something else that MUST be shredded or burned. Thanks for wasting my time!

  32. BStu says:

    Again, there is NO indication that we are talking about “convenience checks” here. None. If further reporting reveals that to be the case, then fine. Until then, that is clearly not the implication of what has been reported.

  33. Fist-o™ says:

    This is just an example of two idiotic entities interacting. Capital one is idiotic for sending the check; the girl is an idiot for cashing it! I sincerely hope that Consumerist.com isn’t expecting us to stand up for her; Hopefully it’s just another reason to NOT TRUST CREDIT CARD COMPANIES.

  34. t-r0y says:

    RTFA – It indicates that it was a real check (not a convenience check) and that it was CapitalOne’s mistake. If that is the case …

    1) She owes them $500. She’d want her money back if she sent them an overpayment.
    2) They should NOT reopen her account and debit the amount.
    3) She should be given ample time to return it (6 mo? 1 yr?)

    Just my 2 cents worth (plus applicable taxes, fees and surcharges).

  35. D-Bo says:

    @Tallanvor: Thanks for the link!

  36. AMetamorphosis says:

    2 wrongs do not make a right.
    Capitol One sucks … but so does cashing a check you know you have no right too.

  37. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    You guys are so f’ng backwards. SHE ripped of Capital One. The check probably told her she was going to get a finance charge too. I can’t believe you guys are blaming C1 for this one.

  38. mergatroy6 says:

    I really don’t like Capital One. They gave me my first credit card and I will never forgive them. On a more serious note, I stopped by a North Fork Bank to get some money from their ATM and they had banners everywhere that read “North Fork Bank Is Now Capital One Bank”. I can only imagine the shenannigans they will pull with people’s checking and savings accounts.

  39. youbastid says:

    “Fink didn’t think she’d overpaid her bill but wasn’t sure.”

    Yeah right. She’s out of work and cashed the check because she “could use the money” – someone in that kind of financial situation would be damn sure if she had overpaid her bill by $500.

  40. forgottenpassword says:

    I thought it was law that you were allowed to keep ANYTHING sent to you thru the mail that was unsolicited?

    I remember when i was a kid seeing PSAs about this …I remember specifically (in that PSA) an eskimo recieving a fan in the mail & smiling because it was free.

  41. BStu says:

    She received a check from a bank she previously did business with that indicated it was an overpayment from several months prior when she DID make a fairly large final payment. I don’t think its reasonable to say that she knew it wasn’t her money. The circumstances are enormously different from a person spending money that mysteriously shows up in their bank account or from people they’ve never heard of. It was perfectly reasonable for her to assume it was her money.

    What’s more, I still don’t see how I would be able to get my money back after “accidentally” giving it to someone. I don’t see why Capital One gets to be careless with their money.

  42. edrebber says:

    Dispute the charge with Capital One and request a copy of the receipt with your signature that shows you charged $500 to your closed credit card account.

  43. seth1066 says:

    “a customer with a closed Capital One credit card” This was obviously a cash advance check. She signed the check to use it and they reopened her account to get her indebtedness on record. These checks come with terms for using them and she is now responsible for fulfilling the terms she agreed to.

  44. BStu says:

    @seth1066: No. Read the story. They said they mailed her the check because they couldn’t credit it directly to her account. They later mailed to say it WAS a mistake. There is NO proof, indication, or reason to suspect that it is a cash advance.

    Might the reporting be wrong? Sure. But this is what we have to go. Not idle anti-consumer speculation that has no basis.

  45. gingerCE says:

    She received the check by mistake–it appears meant to be sent to another cardholder. She should just pay back the $500 minus any fees or interest that Capital One has placed on her account. Capital One should allow her to close the account again. End of story.

    P.S. Has the real intended recipient of the check received their check yet? If not, she could just mail the check directly to the person who’s money it really was.

  46. theycallmetak says:

    If the check wasn’t a convenience check then it may be covered under the same law as unsolicited goods like the shady telemarketers used to send out. They send stuff out and then invoice 30 days later with no previous business relationship and no approval. I think the law is now if someone sends you that without you actually ordering it or approving the order, you get to keep it for free.

  47. monalis says:

    I too have received 2 checks from Capital One in the past week. They are not convenience checks. They do not have any fine print whatsoever on them. There is a check stub attached with a vendor # and an invoice #. It is made out to my name and they are both a pretty good amount. I did have a Capital One account a few years ago but I made a settlement with them and paid the cards off. Or so I thought, a few months after making my final payment they sent me a nasty letter saying that I still owed them money. It has been nothing but a nightmare. Now I have received these checks and don’t know why. I honestly don’t know if I overpaid them or not. I have tried to contact Capital One and the rep. kept thinking I was talking about the convenience checks. I told her it was not a blank check and gave her the check #. She said that she could not find the check # and strongly urged me to send the check back to the address on the envelope it came in. There was nothing in the envelope with the check explaining what it was for. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  48. jdwilly says:

    Just so you all know, I just today received an “expense check” from Captal One. My account is closed with them. They owe me nothing, and there is nothing, not one thing, about my old account, this being a loan…..nothing. Morally, this is not mine. I have a hard time believing this is a mistake however. This rip-off games companies are playing is getting reeeeeeaaaal old.

  49. jason1979 says:

    I also received the above mentioned “EXPENSE CHECK ACCOUNTS PAYABLE” tonight in the mail. I used to have a Capital One account which was in repayment until last December and has been closed since then. It is just a check with no other information. It is not the checks you get that are obvious cash advances, it just looks like a regular reimbursement check. I know I paid Capital One a lot of money and I thought I had probably overpaid them, but after reading this I really don’t know what to think. If they are attempting to get back customers or make loans in this way, it is obviously illegal. I have not been able to get in touch with Capital One customer service since it asks you for your credit card number first thing every single number you call. I tried using my closed one, but that did not work. There is of course no phone number on the check invoice.

  50. jason1979 says:

    I just got off the phone with an account representative from “Recovery” after going through about 4 different people. The guy told me the amount over the phone and said it was a refund for overpayment. So it sounds like this is legit. Gave me his name and his number. I assume they wouldn’t be able to do this, since people would be recording them, so this has to be legit. If they try to pull anything I won’t have any problem taking them to small claims court. Going to scan a copy of the check and invoice right now.