Citi Decides Customers Want $5.95 Security Service, Check Off Box In Advance For Them

If there is anything Americans love, it’s when big banks make decisions for them. For example, some Citi customers recently looked at their credit card bills and noticed that the bank had already checked off the opt-in box for some sort of security service called “Watch-Guard Preferred” at the low, low price of $5.95/month.

The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus goes into details about the service, which is intended to offer protections if your wallet is lost or stolen. Basically, it offers you cash to replace lost items, a cash advance and credit monitoring. But it also comes with a litany of catches and conditions, like “Watch-Guard Preferred may modify or terminate any benefit upon notice.”

Additionally, the service isn’t actually provided by Citi, but by a third-party company. So why would Citi just go ahead and opt people into someone else’s program?

Well, they didn’t quite exactly do that, a bank rep explains.

See, while the box may be checked, you would still need to sign belox the X. All of this is apparently explained in an accompanying insert — better known as the crap that usually goes straight into the shredder.

Lazarus points out that the pre-checked box is right next to where the customer fills in the amount being paid, meaning some people might think the opt-in signature line is where you sign on the payment stub.

He asked the bank why the information was on a separate slip of paper instead of being printed right then and there, and Citi responded thusly:

We apologize that some customers may have found this message confusing, and are always listening to feedback as we work to ensure that it’s clear and simple for customers to find the information they need.

The bank says it won’t be mailing out statements with pre-checked boxes in the future.

Citibank has you checked off for security service [L.A. Times]

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  1. Captain Spock says:

    Fact is, they apologize because it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. They will ALWAYS catch some percentage of people with stuff like this, therefore increasing their profits.

  2. Coffee says:

    This kind of behavior – specifically opt-out agreements that result in additional unrequested services – should be illegal and result in substantial fines to the institution.

  3. Clevelandchick says:

    This should be illegal. It’s one thing to offer a service but this is obviously a scam to catch unsuspecting people. And I bet those who accidentally sign up because they don’t notice the checked box will have a devil of a time cancelling said service…and Citi’s excuse will be it’s not ‘their employees’ fault for not cancelling it but the third party processor they use. I went through this w/AT&T a long time ago and I explained to them that they are responsible for anyone they subcontract with.

  4. CrazyEyed says:

    Yup, definitely deceptive. Thats pretty easy to prove in a court situation if you have the time and money to fight it. But of course, if these blood sucking leeches didn’t f*ck with us in the first place we wouldn’t have to jump through all these hoops. Just goes to show you better read the fine print or read whatever you are signing very carefully and ask questions on verbiage you don’t understand.

    It’s an obvious profit quick and deal with the reprocussions later scheme. On a similar note, most protection services are provided by 3rd parties. It’s a win-win for Citi and the security service. Citi provides the customer base and gets a percentage while the security service already has the infrastructure or technology service and makes their profit.

  5. BurtReynolds says:

    Should be banned. The act of reviewing a statement shouldn’t become a battleground where I need to scour the pages 2-3 times to make sure the card issuer didn’t slip something in there that will cost me more money. It is bad enough with all the “small print” on everything else we do these days. Just let me review my charges and pay my bill without having to be paranoid about missing some $5.95 charge added for my “convenience”.

  6. Lyn Torden says:

    An audit should be performed to reveal how many customers had this happen to them. The bank should then be fined $1000 per incident, in addition to all funds restored.

    • frank64 says:

      Yes, don’t forget the cost of the audit!

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Also don’t forget the cost of the lawyers, they will need several hundred million
        dollars in order to be able to feed their family and bring their kids to Disney World.

  7. frank64 says:

    Yes, it is very aggressively sleazy. Banks more than any other industry force me to suspend my libertarianism, I say fine away. What gets me is banks don’t find any real negative consequences of doing these types of things. I still feel it is our fault for still doing business with banks that do this.

    Can you imagine the meeting this was brought up in though? I am sure they were pretty proud of themselves.

  8. RandomHookup says:

    Who kidnapped our usual Consumerist commentariat and replaced them with look alikes? No one is blamed the OP(s) for not reading all the fine print and not realizing (as does everyone else) that it’s a trick?

    • frank64 says:

      I never understand that line of thinking. I agree it is up to us to be alert, but that does not make it right for someone to have a business plan to take advantage of those that don’t.

      Yes, if you leave you house unlocked and get it robbed, you made a mistake, but I am not going to give the thieves a free pass or say the home owners got what they deserved. Everybody makes some sort of mistake, that does not mean it is OK to be swarming around like a vulture to take advantage.

      • homehome says:

        I don’t think is saying “oh, that’s great, that’s right.” But at least know what the hell you’re signing, because they couldn’t do it without the signature. If you wanna call em out on it, do legislature or penalize them, great I’m all for that, but show some responsibility.

      • RandomHookup says:

        My comment has more to do with the commenters as it seems people rush here to berate people for being bad consumers first, even if the business behavior was obviously bad.

  9. oldwiz65 says:

    The CC companies do this because they make money on it. They never pass up an opportunity to make money, no matter how much it hurts customers.

  10. AllanG54 says:

    If a corporation is a “person” then Citibank must not be able to walk because they’re always shooting themselves in the foot.

  11. Aliciaz777 says:

    I’m in total agreement with everyone saying that this should be illegal and/or banks should be heavily fined for doing crap like this. The banks get away with it because a lot of people don’t thoroughly read the papers they sign at banks, probably thinking that “hey, I trust them with my money so I can trust whatever I’m signing for them”. Always, ALWAYS read things before you sign. Even if it’s a 10 page contract. Read it! You never know what’s in that document and you could screw yourself by not knowing what you’re putting your name on.

    Maybe if banks started facing consequences for crap like this (I’m talking $1,000 or more for every incident) they’d learn their lesson and stop trying to screw hardworking people out of their money (money that, in this economy, they need every single cent of).

  12. padarjohn says:

    I’m confused… how are you supposed to un-check a box on a printed form?

  13. HogwartsProfessor says:

    This shit should be illegal. It’s no different from pickpocketing. Even if you scrutinize your bill every month, you wouldn’t see it until after the fact. So technically, they stole money from you by opting you in without your consent. The “you have to sign on the X” is complete bullshit, since they already took the fee.

    Someone please make this shit stop!

  14. 401k says:

    Old news. They used to use the same tactic with AccountCare (balance protection) to the tune of $0.99 per dollar of your balance. Making the minimum payment? Your balance will stay the same forever. So glad I don’t work for those monsters anymore.

  15. migueldiaz24 says:

    This post is seriously taking it out of context. Yes, I have noticed on my payment stub that it is checked off for you but that doesn’t mean they are going to sign me up for the protection if I send it in. You have to authorize this by adding your signature on the line…..just make your payment and there. If you want it, sign your name, if you dont…..then dont. SIMPLE.

  16. Difdi says:

    Solution: Take a pen knife and cut a square of paper out around the checkbox, so there is literally no box to check in the form. Let’s see them claim I signed up THEN!