New Jersey Wants Marketers To Stop Mailing Unsolicited Checks

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty wants direct mail marketers to stop sending out those “free money!” checks that auto-enroll you in expensive programs when you deposit them, while a senator has introduced a similar measure. “Instead of relying on tricks, companies looking to sell their services in New Jersey should go back to the old-fashioned way: earning consumers’ trust,” said Moriarty.

The legislation he’s introduced would ban businesses from mailing unsolicited checks in New Jersey. If passed, it won’t put a stop to things like those $50 cash offers from Chase:

However, checks related to legitimate banking services or stemming from a pre-existing and direct business-to-consumer relationship would be permitted.

“NJ lawmaker moves to ban unsolicited checks” [Associated Press]

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  1. YardanCabaret says:

    Best part is that for once Moriarty isn’t trying to do something evil. Sherlock you can take a break on this one.

    Had to, it’s the first thing I thought of.

  2. kateblack says:

    I’d love to see that go national.

    Every time I get one of those scam checks, I add the company that sent it to my personal blacklist.

  3. Tim says:

    Instead of relying on tricks, companies looking to sell their services in New Jersey should go back to the old-fashioned way: earning consumers’ trust

    Ha! Next you’re going to tell me banks should make money by investing their deposits, or electronics manufacturers should sell their products based on the quality of the products. Crazy talk.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    This statement coming from a guy named ‘Mariarty’? Classic.

  5. Hoss says:

    I’d love to see this go away. But the issue seems to be better handled at the federal level. Post-Spitzer AGs seem to think it’s their job to write laws. Enforcement is fine with me

    • Hoss says:

      My mistake on the AG reference — seems this is an assemblyman. Same sentiment though — what good are $10,000 fines when it will cost millions to defend nationally

  6. Karita says:

    I hate to sound like one of those “I never shop at Best Buy” or “all Wal-Mart shoppers are scum” people, but is there data showing that people actually fall for this? It seems unlikely to me, because they never look like just a paycheck or a check a relative would send.

    I used to get this type of check quite often, though recently only BoA has done it in some sort of effort to sell me life insurance. But they always come with so much paperwork that it’s quite apparent that it’s not just free money.

    Personally, I think all unsolicited mail should be banned – the amount I recycle each week is just stunning. But I’m surprised that these checks cause more of a problem than just adding to landfills.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’m sure there are tons of people who fall for this, just like there are tons of people who fall for Nigerian prince scams, Blue Hippo scams, rent a center scams, etc. They’re out there.

    • treimel says:

      They would have stoped sending them long ago if they didn’t make money from them–it’s like spam e-mail: most people ignore it, but it only takes a few to make it profitable.

    • Julia789 says:

      I’d bet quite a few victims of the mailing are elderly, who may have trouble seeing or reading the fine print stating that cashing the check enrolls them in a club for a fee. They might think they’ve gotten a rebate check or refund of some sort.

      • mac-phisto says:

        that’s exactly what happened to one of my members the other day. she came in with 3 of those checks & i politely explained what the small print said on the back. i told her it was up to her to decide & that there was probably a way to cancel, but the check was enrolling her in a service.

        she ripped them up right away – she thought they were dividend checks.

  7. ARP says:

    I think the fastest way to get them to stop is that we can keep the money free and clear if we don’t sign a separate document (contract) actually enrolling in the program.

  8. craptastico says:

    as a NJ resident, i am shocked. a politician actually pushing for something that people might want. maybe this will start a trend

  9. twophrasebark says:

    Legally speaking, you cannot attach any kind of stipulation or agreement that precludes you from endorsing a check or draft.

    In other words, any agreement printed on the back of a check is not enforceable simply because you endorse the check. It is not a valid contract.

    That being said, this does not mean the company whose check you have signed will not enroll you in anyway.

    • econobiker says:

      Somehow they can sign you up via a check but you cannot put limiting endorsement statements on your checks to them.

      I always wondered why this only works one way in the corporations favor…

    • mac-phisto says:

      can you cite that for me? limiting endorsements are frequently used on insurance checks, loan payoffs, retirement plan/pension disbursements, etc. they seem quite prevalent actually. i’d be interested to see some literature explaining their illegality since i encounter them so often.

  10. DirectMailFan says:

    Paul Moriarty used to be a consumer affairs reporter on KYW-TV Channel 3 in Philadelphia. He’s a good guy.

    As long as this proposed legislation is narrowly targeted, it should be OK. Companies like Trilegiant have relationships with well-know brand names, like hotel chains, to sell these services. And the fact that a prospect is signing up for something is buried in mouse type.

    As I always tell people, read the fine print – whether it’s in a mailing, newspaper ad, or online/email ad.

  11. azntg says:

    Wait! Where’s all those guys who go “NOOOO! I actually profit from those checks!”

    (I’m personally don’t – a bit too lazy on my end to jump through hoops to get a couple of bucks)

  12. Thorzdad says:

    “However, checks related to legitimate banking services or stemming from a pre-existing and direct business-to-consumer relationship would be permitted.”

    Man. Even the most wet-behind-the-ears marketing department intern could drive a Winnebago through that loophole. Blindfolded.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      That’s the first thing I thought of.

      But then the only unsolicited checks i get in the mail are from Bank of America trying to get me to deposit one and take out a loan by doing so.

      That’s a pre-existing relationship since I have a credit card through them. And I wish they would stop sending me that crap.

  13. Trick says:

    I have received a few of these checks over the years… usually you had to put down your credit card info that you wanted to “protect” or a phone number. I put something down, nothing of mine of course. I think one company asked me for correct info and I never responded and I can’t remember if the other company ever asked…

  14. SilentMountain says:

    It seems like these offers are deliberately designed to prey on the elderly and those on fixed incomes. It must be once a month my grandmother calls in wild excitement to tell me she got a check for $20, but she doesn’t understand the fine print on the back. I tell her to throw it away and never look back. Yet every time a new one shows up, my phone rings. The language is obviously designed to confuse and obfuscate. It needs to end.

  15. Nummerkins says:

    I’ve cashed so many of these checks that I must be on a Trilegiant blacklist. I put the cancellation phone # in Google Calendar to call in 2 weeks. Takes 3 minutes and the ability to say NO 5 times, and interrupt until cancellation is confrmed.