First week of January again so time for the New Year’s Resolutions. First on my list (well, second) will be checking bank statements and credit card statements every month. January is a great time to go one step further and really understand what you’re paying for.
Auditing direct debits
Direct debits pop up every month and we kind of get used to paying them without thinking – well that’s the idea, so all the more reason to carry out a proper audit every once in a while.
This year we had a good look at the monthly charge for the broadband, telephone and TV service. It seemed to be a lot higher than before. So we checked the account (not easy as we had long forgotten the user-name and password) to find out what we were paying for.
Something else too, the contract expired just before Christmas so the moment was ripe to do something about it. A quick trawl through the internet and low and behold we could get the same service from other suppliers seemingly at a much lower cost.
When we originally signed up only one or two providers could offer a service in our postcode. Now that had changed so more competition brought about lower prices. Remember, your existing service providers will always go the extra mile to persuade you not to go to one their competitors.
A phone call to our existing provider, and the contract price came tumbling down. So just half an hour’s work resulted in a saving of £35.00 a month, and without any disruption from changing supplier. Not a huge amount, but £420 over a year is well worth going after.
It’s very easy to sign up for a three month trial period and then a monthly subscription charge if you don’t cancel. And how many of us forget to cancel. Again we soon get used to the monthly charge so our January audit is a great time to check out these recurring charges, which don’t get made through a direct debit. We found one – for a shopping discount scheme that was a total waste of time and money. One telephone call to cancel, and that was another £15.00 saved each month.
So now that we had gone through every charge on our statements, what else to check for each month?
Well, the biggest risk is FRAUD!
Banking fraud is not something that only happens to other people. Over the years, we have personally experienced:
- Money taken from an online bank account – both the credit balance and the full overdraft facility. One phone call to the bank in question, and the full amount was reinstated without question. Quite how the fraudsters hacked into our account we never found out, and it is still a puzzle, as we only used it for direct credit transfers online. But if we hadn’t checked the statement, we would never have found out what had happened.
- A phone call from another branch of our retail bank, asking for confirmation that it was OK to pay cash against one of our cheques that was being presented over the counter. The signature didn’t match. The sort code and the cheque number were valid – only the cheque with that number was still sitting in the cheque book unused. The bank faxed a copy of the printed cheque, and it looked perfectly genuine, even down to the watermarks. But not every bank clerk checks signatures before cashing a cheque.
- A phone call from a well-known electrical chain one Sunday morning, asking for verification of an online order for goods using my credit card. Total amount well over £1500.00 Naturally, I was able to confirm that we had not ordered the goods in question, so the order was stopped.
In none of these three cases had we given anybody our card or bank account details, so no matter how careful you are about protecting your own identity and financial information, the thieves had still found a way to get past at least the first line of defence.
Banking and credit card fraud is rampant, the internet has just opened new possibilities for fraudsters to get their hands on your cash. Total banking fraud runs at over £2 billion each year, a third of which goes undetected – until it is too late.
So, three good reasons why you should chck your bank and credit card statements at least once each month.