Monday, April 16, 2007

Is Citibank evil?

The lovely Carol is opening the mail and she says, "Here's a new Master Card®. It has your name on it, so I guess you should be the one to activate it." We both thought this was just a renewal of our existing card, so I walked over to the phone. As I looked at the mailer, I realized that this was for a completely new account.

Here's what I got:
  1. A tri-fold mailer with the card in the middle. "Please sign your new card immediately," it says.

    In the bottom third of the sheet, it says: "Just follow the steps below and begin saving with your new Citi® MasterCard®" and there's a great big "0% APR" sign. But if you read the fine print, you discover that it's for a limited period and for certain purchases. If you charge a $95 dinner, you pay their usual rate unless you pay the bill off in full. But if you charge a $105 dinner, you get 0% APR for 3 months. I don't know what happens after that.
  2. Privacy Notice.
  3. Card Agreement
  4. Supplemental Pricing Information. This last was the most interesting.
    • Standard Purchases get a 12.24% APR.
    • Standard Cash Advances get a 23.24% APR.
    • Default gets 32.24% APR.
    That "Default" is astonishing. Have you ever missed a credit card payment? We have. It's not because we didn't have the money; it was because we weren't keeping track closely enough. We pay the thing off, but if you're a day late...
So I thought, this looks to me like an unsolicited credit card offer, because I sure as heck didn't ask for a card with 32% APR.

Underneath the card is this lovely notice:
If you do not want the Citi® MasterCard®, call 800-432-0282 and we will close your account.
Now why should I have to call these clowns at all? Is it actually legal to offer unsolicited credit like this?

OK, so I humored them. I dialed the number, and keyed in my 16-digit number: 5256 xxxx yyyy zzzz. Then they ask me for the last 4 digits of my social security number! "You gotta be kidding!" I say.

"We did not get your response. Please enter the last 4 digits of the primary account holder's social security number."

I'm thinking maybe a human will come on at some point. "There is no way I'm giving you any part of my social security number," I say.

The machine asks again, and I just hang up.

So, I really don't like this. There are several things I find extremely offensive about this:
  1. UNSOLICITED and UNWANTED (sorry for SHOUTING but this is REALLY OFFENSIVE) "offer" of credit, with an...
  2. astonishing, ruinous APR.
  3. Training people to give out the last 4 digits of their SSN over the phone. What % of the phones in this country are cordless these days? Especially in homes where you're sending this sort of UNSOLICITED offer of credit? So you're training people to BROADCAST their SSN!
I did not "activate" the card, but I wonder what information is needed to activate it? If it's just the last 4 digits of the SSN, that ought to be criminal, because as the recent HP scandal showed, it's easy enough to find someone's SSN, even if they've been quite careful with it.

Well, I feel a little better after venting. I'm gonna share this information with Consumer Reports and with Knightsbridge Castle.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I, too, received this card. I googled the "Close the Account" number and found your site.

Your story is exactly the same as me. I called and got to the part about entering my social security number, then quickly hung up the phone.

My questions are many:

1. What company would do such a thing?

2. Why would I put in the final four digits of my social security number when I never applied for the card?

3. How did somebody at Citibank get my social security number? I've never had an account with them, bank or credit card.

4. Who are they to open an account for me?

What poor people are being preyed upon and suckered into using these cards?

I am contacting the Better Business Bureau and I am contacting a lawyer. It's time to put these business practices down.

Anonymous said...

Hey - I got the exact same thing. I was really angry about this, so I called the customer service number and hit "0" when prompted for the last 4 digits of my SSN to get a live person. Turns out it was a transfer from my Macy's account. And I had gotten a letter a while before announcing that Macy's was going to do this, so it was not entirely unsolicited. BTW - I closed the account (although I did have to give the last 4 digits of my SSN to do so).

Anonymous said...

I got it too. Am suspicious so I go to Citibank.com and send them an email to see if it's a real card or a hoax? Here's the response I got "Thank you for your message regarding your Citibank credit card account. Citibank offers a specific website for credit card accounts. For assistance with your credit card, you may contact CitiCards customer service at 1-800-950-5114,
24 hours a day.

You may also visit www.citicards.com to access your account or select the “Credit Cards” link found at the top of the screen.

For technical assistance with the CitiCards website please
contact their 24 hour Technical Support department at
1-800-347-4934.

Thank you for using MyCiti. We appreciate the opportunity
to serve you.

Sincerely,
MyCiti Online Customer Service"

Needless to say - I do not want the card and am upset that I received it! Will be calling Citibank to voice my annoyance! And if I did have a card with them, I'd cancel that too!

Jason said...

I just got one of these Citibank credit cards too! I'm extremely skeptical about it and I did a Google search for the phone number they provided, which gave me your blog. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that's upset about it. Did you ever find out anything new about this? I'm not sure I even want to call them to refuse the account!

collin said...

Jason,

No, I never found out anything more. After that nonsense where they wanted my SSN, I just hung up, then cut up the card.

You might consider freezing your credit report; that will stop these clowns from sending you anything more like that.

Anonymous said...

I called the customer service number on the back of the card, and they finally told me that I had an old store credit card that was inactive. Because it was inactive, they decided to "upgrade" me to the MasterCard. Citi claims they have a right to do this because they were the financial institution for the original card, and I "signed a piece of paper that says they could do this." Sounds like a questionable business practice to me.

Anonymous said...

I called the customer service number 1-866-510-2761. It also asked for my last 4 digits of SSN. I just typed in random 4 digits. It says something wrong blah and asked me to type in again. I just typed in some other random 4 digits. After 3 times, it redirected me to a representative. She asked for my ssn again and I gave her some 4 random digits. She said it is wrong. I then asked why I am getting this card. She said it's from Macy. So I asked her to cancel it and she did it without asking my ssn. I guess she got too many complains and wouldn't like to bother asking.