Are secret debits stealing your cash?

It’s not always easy to practise what you preach. And like most people, I hate checking my bank statements and bills. So when I say “make time to check your bills and statements” feel free to roll your eyes and plan the fun stuff that you’re going to do this weekend instead.
Checking bank statements can pay off.Checking bank statements can pay off.
Checking bank statements can pay off.

But wait! There’s a real value to gritting your teeth and facing down the paperwork. You might even end up with more cash. Here’s how.

◆ Start with your direct debits and standing orders. You can get a list from your bank or find them through your online banking. Recognise everything? It’s an alarming fact that millions of people are paying for old insurance policies, charity donations, magazine subscriptions and more that they simply don’t need. You can cancel these payments with your bank – and if the debits weren’t authorised, you can ask them to recall the funds. Speak to the firm that’s debiting you too though – just in case. Oh, and make sure you’re not cancelling anything that’s useful, like a life insurance policy. I’ve seen lots of cases where people have mistaken these for PPI – and once you close them, they can’t be reopened.

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◆ Go back through your bank and credit card statements. Make sure you go back 13 months too. Why? Well a decade or so ago, a new type of payment called a “continuous payment authority” or CPA was introduced. A CPA allows a business to take a regular payment from your debit or credit card. These might appear as small monthly payments or one big yearly payment. Contact your bank and card provider and explain that the payments aren’t authorised. You’ll have to fill in a form confirming this and they’ll try to “charge back” the cash. Bear in mind if the payments go back a long way you might not get everything back though.

◆ Lots of Resolver users have been caught out by free trial scams. One of the most common is for beauty products (usually from the US). The scams work by sending your small samples as part of the “trial” then sending you the products themselves when the free period ends. They then hit you with charges. Dispute this through your bank and ask them to recall the money and block further payments. You’ll need to email the firm and ask them for an address and postal method to return the goods.

◆ A quarter of a million people have used Resolver to reclaim charges for packaged bank accounts they never wanted or agreed to. Packaged bank accounts are standard accounts “packaged” with extras, like travel or mobile phone insurance. Some are really good, but lots of people were signed up despite not wanting them. It’s not too late to make a complaint if you’re still being charged.

◆ Go through your mobile phone bill. I’m predicting that premium rate text charges will be one of the big scandals of the year ahead. Countless people have already contacted Resolver to complain that rip-off firms have been sending them unwanted texts and charging them up to £4 for each one – sometimes ten or more in one week. Mobile phone companies have been a bit blasé about this. So make a complaint and ask for your money back – and take it further if you don’t get any joy.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service