$10 Check From Budget Secretly Signs You Up For Costly Club

If you’ve rented from Budget and get a $10, check in the mail, don’t sign it, reports Upgrade Travel Better. The fine print says doing so gives “Trilegiant” permission to sign you up in a monthly “discount” club with a monthly fee. Worse, it allows them to use the credit card you rented the car with to start charging the fees. Pretty sleazy.

Budget is aiding and abetting abuse of your credit card information [Upgrade: Travel Better] (Thanks to RC Jordan!)

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  1. gerrylum says:

    These types of check scams should be illegal.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      @gerrylum: If you were to call and ask “Why did you send me $10?” what would they say?

      • werekit says:

        @AlteredBeast: They would say that they are offering you $10 to try the trial of their service and if you don’t like it you should cancel within 30days (the trial period).

  2. joeblevins says:

    If you look at the fine print you can get discounts at Circuit City, that has to be a great deal right?

    • Ben King says:

      @joeblevins: I worked at a company selling roadside assistance for a couple weeks last month. One of our big selling points was that the program came with ‘an exclusive savings club’ for % off at a bunch of stores, and Circuit City was one of the ones we named. I wonder if they still use their name in those pitches.

  3. HRHKingFridayXX says:

    Ugh, I get these types of checks from my bank. With bank logos and everything! I can’t believe its legal.

    • GMFish says:

      @HRHKingFridayXX: “I can’t believe its legal.

      Welcome to the wonderful world of free market capitalism.

      • HRHKingFridayXX says:

        @GMFish: Heh, yeah blame it on the “market”. The point was that just because you can sell something doesn’t mean you should, ethically speaking. In a perfect world, everyone would be too smart to fall for something like this and they company would cease to exist. But we’re not, there’s still some idiot in middle america that falls for it.

        • magic8ball says:

          @HRHKingFridayXX: I think in a perfect world, companies like this wouldn’t exist in the first place because such behavior is deceptive. Just my $.02.

          • GearheadGeek says:

            @magic8ball: The argument could also be made that in a perfect world, companies like this wouldn’t exist because people would pay attention to what they’re signing and would shred this marketing BS instead of depositing it in their bank accounts. If there weren’t lots of credulous marks out there, these companies would either disappear or find a less deceptive business model.

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Wait, this isn’t a refund they are sending? They just send $10 in hopes you will sign it (and thus sign up for a service you don’t really want)?

  5. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    This has *GOT* to be illegal!?

  6. JohnAllison says:

    Just cross out the terms. It is no longer a term of the contract.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @JohnAllison: Wrong.

    • LorneReams says:

      @JohnAllison:

      I used to do this all the time with ATT! Never had a problem.

    • oneliketadow says:

      @JohnAllison: Even if that is legally correct, I’d love to listen in as you explain it to the person in India when you explain why you don’t have to pay.

      • SacraBos says:

        @oneliketadow: Don’t bother, do a chargeback with the credit card! Now, you’ve not only cost them $10 by cashing the check, but $35 for the unauthorized CC charge! Free market consumerism!

    • ScottRose says:

      @JohnAllison: I just did the same thing with a security deposit refund check from my landlord. Envelope was empty save for the check, and above the endorsement line they had included some crap along the lines of:

      “I hereby accept that this is the entirety of the security deposit to which I am entitled.” (Complete paraphrase).

      I wrote under it something like,

      “I do not accept the above. I do not know what was taken from my security deposit nor why.”

      I have no idea if that’s legally binding, but I don’t care. They took off something like $150 from my $3800 deposit, which was probably reasonable. It was the principle of the thing that annoyed me.

  7. Intertrode says:

    After renting from Budget twice I got a random charge on my credit card a few months later without explanation. Both were reversed without a dispute but I have to wonder what they do with my credit card info.

    • summerbee says:

      @Intertrode: I’m really surprised they’re not PCI compliant. Companies typically aren’t allowed to keep your CC information on file unless you specifically request it.

      • HRHKingFridayXX says:

        @summerbee: I think the exception is for rental companies (hotels, cars, etc) with the understanding that they may find damages after you check out. Still, it should be for more than a week then.

  8. nataku8_e30 says:

    I signed up for one of those “discount” programs when I booked a hotel with Priceline (I believe it was called Great Fun). They claimed a 10% refund, and then when I signed up claimed they would provide an additional 5% refund, which came to a total of 20 something dollars. Anyway, I followed their instructions to get the refund and I cancelled just before the 30 day trial period expired and was never charged anything. After a few weeks, I received a check for $10 with fine print that stated if I cashed it, I’d automatically be enrolled in their program. Since it was a) for the wrong amount and b) a scam, I decided to just shred it. They sent me over 10 repeat checks over the course of about 5 or 6 months before finally giving up. I was kind of wondering what would happen if I kept all of them and cashed them all at once, but it seemed like it might create too much of a headache to sort out cancelling everything again. I guess this is a fairly common scam.

    • werekit says:

      @nataku83: The followup was because you were on their marketing list at that point. The refund check should have still come (though you might have been required to fill out a form online or offline to claim it so they could get breakage on the discount).

      • nataku8_e30 says:

        @werekit: Hrmm, interesting. I definitely did not receive a refund check from them. I had luck doing this with another company in the past, but I guess this one isn’t even remotely reliable. At least they didn’t charge me anything after I canceled!

  9. bonzombiekitty says:

    I get crap like this all the time, often from my credit card (or used to, I haven’t seen one in a while). People just don’t seem to get that companies don’t randomly send you money for no reason.

    • Gokuhouse says:

      @bonzombiekitty: I used to get this crap a lot as well. Haven’t seen one in a year or so though. Glad I never signed one.

    • ecwis says:

      @bonzombiekitty: I made over $100 that way. They kept sending them over and over again, I usually called during the free trial period to prevent further problems. They eventually stopped sending them after I cashed so many of them.

      Also, I never signed the checks, therefore if they charged me, they couldn’t even claim that I signed up for it; their checks always say that you must sign it and “positive id required” but check cashing is almost fully automated so nobody ever looks at the back of the checks.

  10. tripnman says:

    Years ago I received one of these mysterious retention checks from AT+T. The fine print on the check communicated the terms – by cashing the check I would allow them to switch the phone number on the front of the check to long distance service from AT+T. Funny thing was, the number on the front was not my phone number. So, the wife and I went out to dinner on AT+T. (It was a $100 check.)

    • Ubik2501 says:

      @tripnman: …Or on the poor sap whose number that actually was.

      • tripnman says:

        @Ubik2501: Actually, the number on the check was my OLD number, and I was kind enough to call it before cashing the check just so I wouldn’t force AT+T on another. All for bashing the faceless corp, don’t want to screw my neighbor. (Okay, there is one neighbor, but that’s for a different forum)

        • Corporate_guy says:

          @tripnman: They agreed to let you slam them with AT&T while earning 100 bucks for yourself? Why would anyone agree to that?

          • tripnman says:

            @Corporate_guy: Oh, I’m just not being very clear today. My old number had yet to be reassigned, I called it first to confirm that. (do-do-doooh! We’re sorry, the number you are calling has been changed, disconnected or…)

  11. Marshfield says:

    I’ve gotten two or three of these checks linked to an order I placed with Haband over a year ago. If you don’t have that card any more, or you want to call it ‘lost’ and get a new one, they can’t charge to your old card, so cash the check and enjoy the free money. Or if you feel daring, cash the check, and watch for the materials to come in the mail,then call and cancel within 30 days. A bit of a hassle but might be worth it.
    The card I ordered from Haband with is long gone, so I’ve gotten nearly 30.00 from these guys so far.

    • Starscream_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @Marshfield: IIRC, Consumerist has featured more than one story will people have been charged on closed accounts. They just don’t send you a bill, and tack on late charges before putting you in collections.

    • Tedicles says:

      @Marshfield:

      Gold Violin mail order company also does this…still trying to find the time to call and yell at some poor CS person regarding the legality of this…

      /continues to read Consumerist

  12. plyhard13 says:

    Well, Budget is officially crossed off the list of companies to do business with.

    • madamdalriada says:

      @plyhard13: A clothing company I frequented online just sent me one of those checks last week. I immediately went to their customer service page and cut all ties, took myself off the catalog and email lists, etc. I liked their clothes too :/

  13. dwasifar says:

    You can turn this kind of scam around and use it to your benefit. Some time back I was having a telephoned dispute with a creditor and offered them 50 cents on the dollar to settle it. They refused. I sent them a letter anyway with the 50% offer and a check; the letter said, “don’t cash this unless you’re accepting the offer,” and on the back of the check I printed something very like what you see on that scan above: “Cashing or depositing this check constitutes acceptance of the terms outlined in the accompanying letter to settle account xxxx in full.”

    I was betting they could not resist cashing it, and they couldn’t. I was also expecting they’d try to come after me for the rest, and they did. I told them to go screw, that they had accepted my offer and we were done. They said they’d send it to an attorney; I said, fine, go ahead. The attorney sent me a threatening letter; I sent back copies of the cashed check and the offer; I never heard from them again.

    Epic win. :)

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      @dwasifar: Your lucky they didn’t use the routing and account number to draft your account anyways. Never pay a collections agency with a personal check!

      Sounds like you won, but it could have been a massive headache if they drained your account (or cashed the check unsigned, etc…)

      • dwasifar says:

        @AustinTXProgrammer: I have a second checking account, separate from my main account, that I use for things like automatic drafts, so I can just close that account if someone starts abusing it. I don’t remember if I used it then, but if I were to do this again I would definitely use that account.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      @dwasifar: Can this possibly be done with regular accounts, and not collection agencies?

      Like, if I sent in my car payment, and on the check wrote “Cashing or depositing this check constitutes acceptance that this payment will settle my account in full.”

      Could that possibly hold up?

      • sirwired says:

        @AlteredBeast: If your account is current, and you try and pay off your credit card this way they may very well reject the payment entirely, and then you will be late, with fees, etc. on top of what you didn’t pay.

        • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

          @sirwired: I was thinking that if I were to try this, it would be well before a regular payment was due, or even mail them one right after the other (installment payment, then this attempt).

          For a large balance, it might be worth the resulting hassel, but I also think that if I’m unreasonable with the terms it might not hold water. Like if I owe $10k on my car, and send a payment of $500 with the clause it will resolve my debt in full.

          • smythe says:

            @AlteredBeast: Right, because thats exactly we all need. Assholes like you try to get something for nothing while the rest of us end up having to bail you out. Great… This would have been better accepted on the “how to be a criminal douche” forum.

            Seriously companies are GOING to make a profit, if its not on you them they will make up for it with the rest of us.

            • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

              @smythe: How is that possibly criminal? I send them an offer, they sign. If they accept it, don’t call me an asshole, call them on not paying attention.

              If I said to a clerk at a store, “Can I have this $1,000 TV for $100″ and he isn’t paying attention and sells it to me at that price, did I do something criminal?

              Sure, some other customer will have to incur a markup, but that is due to the negligence of the clerk.

              • dwasifar says:

                @AlteredBeast: Ugh. We are absolutely not on the same page here. I had a legitimate dispute and made a legitimate offer to end it, well documented and explained in a letter. I went out of my way to make it clear. They accepted it with full disclosure; I imagine they were hoping they could then bully me into paying the rest, but that turned out otherwise.

                What you’re talking about, by contrast, is just trying to pull a fast one on someone, hoping they won’t notice they’re entering into a foolish agreement – which is what Budget is doing in the original Consumerist post.

                • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

                  @dwasifar: I know we aren’t on the same page, and I’m also not planning on actually doing this. But, I’ll admit, my mind went there. It was more of a “what if?”, and I think it is an interesting I idea. I would like to know if it could actually work, in the shady sort of way that I described. So if my morals are questionable because of the idea, so be it…but they aren’t so questionable that I will actually try it. I still wouldn’t call it criminal, but I would consider it scamming the company.

              • smythe says:

                @AlteredBeast: You are an asshole, you talk about the neglegence of the clerk… How the hell do you think a large company processes all of the checks that it receives??? If you had 5000 checks to go through and some jerk wrote an “agreement” on one of them, would you catch it?

                You are trying to exploit companies to gain personally at the cost of everyone else, that makes you an asshole!

    • sirwired says:

      @dwasifar: The laws on restrictive endorsements vary by state. Some do not accept them at all, others require a letter to have been previously sent detailing the restriction, some accept them more or less without restriction.

      This is the sort of thing where you MUST obtain the advice of a lawyer before trying a stunt like that. In addition, be prepared to have a lousy credit report also.

      • dwasifar says:

        @sirwired: I did actually send a letter, and documented everything six ways to Sunday because I expected a fight. The dispute was legitimate, and the offer to settle was a reasonable amount – 50%. They claimed I owed it, I believed (and still believe) I owed nothing, so 50% was a reasonable compromise. It’s not as if I was trying what AlteredBeast is suggesting. :)

        The dispute was with a hospital and the amount at issue was $1014, so it’s not as if I was getting off scot-free – I paid them $507 which I still believe I did not owe, as a good faith offer to end the dispute before it went to court. The only unusual thing about the story is the social engineering I engaged in to get them to accept the offer.

  14. Optimizer says:

    Watch out for this one. You can be scammed through Orbitz, too … After completing a transaction, you may be told something along the lines of, “Click here to claim your prize/rebate/whatever.” Do that, supply your year of birth and hometown and, voila, you’re now a Trilegiant/”Great Fun” card carrying member. You can read more on Wikipedia ([en.wikipedia.org]). These guys have been busted before for things, so when you call to cancel your “membership,” I tend to thing they will honor your request, but it can still be a major PITA.

  15. larrymac808 says:

    Point of information – Trilegiant owns Shopper’s Advantage, the “service” offered by restaurant.com as noted in a recent Consumerist post.

  16. rpm773 says:

    I think Bank of America tried something like this with me a few years ago…except it was a “survey” on travel. Fill out the survey, get a free mp3 player, be enrolled in a monthly fee-based travel discount “club” .

    That was a couple months after I had been folded into their customer base after their purchase of Fleet. It kind of set the tone of how I’ve felt about them ever since.

  17. razremytuxbuddy says:

    I rent 10-20 times a year, almost always from Budget, because they are so great to deal with. So, this promo really surprises me. I’m enrolled in their Fast Break program and they do keep my CC info on file with my consent, but I haven’t received this promo from them.

    I did get a surprise charge on my card once, after returning the car, but it was for a parking ticket I got with the car and forgot to pay. Didn’t even try to argue my way out of that one for two reasons: The ticket was my responsibility, and Budget has been extremely fair with me on every rental. I don’t want to mess with a good thing.

  18. LorneReams says:

    That’s interesting. I wonder if that is legally binding. I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to have conditions on a bearer instrument (although you can have a separate doc that references the check that you would also need to sign..)

  19. unobservant says:

    What happens if you cash the check WITHOUT signing the back of it? I never sign them when I put them in the ATM because my bank told me not to.

  20. LSonnenhimmer says:

    seems like consumerist is bound to repeat itself, we covered this a while back
    [consumerist.com]

  21. BillyShears says:

    Budget’s scum. They charged me to fill a car’s tank when I brought it back *with a full tank* to their LAX facility. I didn’t catch it until I was several thousand feet in the air going through my bag.

    The worst part is that there’s no real way to contest the charge since you’d need a picture of the fuel gauge at the time of the return. It was the first and last time I rented with them.

  22. TrueBlue63 says:

    I have to have my banks start printing my checks with fine print. If you cash this check you agree to waive all future fees and charges for cable tv, cell phone service, etc etc etc.

    I bet the contracts are unenforceable, but take em to small claims court to get the money back, it costs more in time and energy. Bring back the stockades!!!

  23. nsv says:

    I started getting large charges on a credit card from Trilegiant a long time ago, and it was a battle to get the money back. (Not sure I even got it all.) I have no idea why they started charging me, and they wouldn’t tell me. They only said I consented to the charges.

    Yes, I consented to spending more than $80 per month on nothing. Right. And no, I never cashed a check.

    Their website claims:

    Through our membership club and loyalty product businesses, we provide products and services that touch the lives of more than 100 million people across America.

    and:

    Our business began in 1973 and has grown to serve more than 25 million members across America.

    Wait, what?

    Oh, and they have phone numbers and URLs for their membership clubs posted:

    Members can also use the following toll free numbers:
    AutoVantage 1-877-259-2696
    Buyers Advantage 1-800-553-4948
    Complete Home 1-800-232-4663
    PC SafetyPlus 1-877-630-1183
    Great Fun 1-800-214-6422
    HealthSaver 1-800-7-HEALTH (1-800-743-2584)
    Hot-Line 1-800-323-1137
    Just for Me 1-877-848-8888
    National Card Registry 1-800-323-1137
    Netmarket.com 1-888-696-2753
    PrivacyGuard 1-877-202-8828
    Shoppers Advantage 1-800-526-4848
    TravelersAdvantage 1-877-259-2691
    Travel ER 1-800-E-Assist (1-800-327-7478)

    [www.trilegiant.com]

  24. metaled says:

    Another reason to use a prepaid Credit Card (beside internet purchases). I would love to receive one of these checks based on an expired credit card!

  25. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @smythe: I didn’t say I’m DOING it, but I brought up the idea. So just discussing it is possible makes me an asshole? If someone in Homeland Security discusses how someone could bomb some location, does that make THEM the terrorist?

    Now would someone be an asshole for doing that? Many would say yes, and I’d probably agree. But I also think that, if this is something that can legally hold up, the large corporation should have procedure in place to avoid this. Perhaps an optical scanner that registers when additional writing is on a check.

    THIS IS HOW PEOPLE IN A COMPANY CLOSE THE LOOP HOLES! Discussion of what a customer can get away with.

    Again, if I DID do this, call me an asshole.

    But don’t start flaming me for discussing how someone could take advantage of this possible technicality.

  26. grimdeath9740 says:

    my wife and mother both worked for a call center for this horrible company and I can honestly say they are the most sly and dishonest company you will ever run into, even to their employees. they honestly could care less about anything except money.

    to top it all off they decided to close the center in our location, giving notice back in november that they would be closing the doors in march. my wife luckily found a new job already (crazy lucky in this economy) but my mom has decided to take a break from working for a bit. she would be hard pressed to find a job.

    I hope they continue to screw people over, they are good at that, and get put out of business.