Dodgy credit card of the day

By Felix Salmon
September 29, 2010
John Hempton was uncovering a dodgy Chinese stock on the New York Stock Exchange, Tim Chen of Nerdwallet was looking into a much smaller operation, Anacott Financial.

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While John Hempton was uncovering a dodgy Chinese stock on the New York Stock Exchange, Tim Chen of Nerdwallet was looking into a much smaller operation, Anacott Financial.

The company’s home page seems simple and professional enough, although the picture of the credit card doesn’t have a Visa or MasterCard logo on it, which is a bit odd: those logos are slapped on the bottom of the page. After you move on from the home page, things rapidly fall apart, and not just because the company doesn’t seem to be able to spell.

your.tiff fees.tiff

For one thing, if you simply Google their name, the first result is their website; the next three are message boards complaining about them and asking if they’re a scam. The answer, it seems, is yes: there might be no annual fee, but they ask you for $99 upfront, and they’re likely to simply walk away with that $99 and not even send you a card.

Here’s what Chen found out after spending a bit of time on their website:

  • Their about us page (screenshot) makes a few claims that we are having trouble verifying.
  • Their free credit score check page communicates a few undisputable lies.
    • It asks for personal information, including your social security number, then falsely claims to access TransUnion, Equifax, and Expirian to download your FICO score. The page then prints out a random FICO score.
    • This sequence of events is objectively happening based on our analysis of the source code of their “creditscore.php” page. The javascript cycles through “Accessing Expirian Servers….” type text based on a random timer, then generates a random score.
    • You can trigger this sequence without any input data if you navigate directly there using this link. Alternatively, you can fabricate user data and get the same results.
    • We’ve taken screen shots of the sequence – here is a sample shot where they claim to access Expirian and retrieve a score – which is clearly a lie because I put in Jean Claude Van Damme’s name and a bogus SSN, not to mention that it spits out a different socre every time. Any programmer looking at the source code can show you where the number is randomly generated.
  • Their “Make a Payment” and “Account Login” pages do not appear to function when you enter fake data, are they on the site just for appearances?
    • The “make a payment” page (screenshot) is coded such that it requires you to fill out BOTH your external credit card and checking account information in order for the form to be submittable, which makes no sense from a user interface perspective – if it were actually intended to be used for processing payments. Once you submit bogus information, the page leads nowhere, not even to a “wrong password” page.
    • The submit button on the “Make a Payment” page says “Submit Your Application” (screenshot)
    • The account login page‘s submit button says “Submit and Check Your Credit Score for Free” (screenshot), and leads nowhere if you put in bogus information.
  • Are they trying to bilk the $99 application fee out of people with poor credit?
    • Their terms & conditions page is inconsistent with the bullets on their site. The site says you get the $99 application fee back “After First Payment”. The terms & conditions page (screenshot) says you get the $99 back if you cancel the card “within five days of application date”, which might be difficult because it also says “Please allow for four weeks from date of submission to process a completed application”.
    • The fine print drops a bombshell – you aren’t necessarily going to get approved for the card you applied for – (screenshot). On discussion forums, one person reports receiving a prepaid debit card after an extensive wait. Here are a few examples of affiliates promoting the card using the “approved copy” – a bad credit website, and comparison site CardTrak. This marketing copy is deceptive, because (i) there is a credit check involved based on the fine print, (ii) approval is not guaranteed, for the advertised card.
  • Does the credit card even exist? I can’t find any credible reports of people actually receiving the card, and there are circumstantial hints that the card does not even exist.
    • There appears to be an effort to fake a person named “Rossana Laspina” on Yahoo Answers, who claims to have received the card. She has been active on Yahoo Answers exactly 2 weeks at the time of this writing, and has been answering completely random topics in hopes of looking like a real person. The two other users who claim to have received the card, Tish Alvarez and Sharika Torske, have deleted profiles.
    • Yahoo Answers also has other highly suspicious activity, namely all the posts where the “contributor” says the card is a scam have been voted down to the point where Yahoo hides the answer. Meanwhile, other posts have been voted up.
    • This thread has a member who states that they received a prepaid debit card, with a zero balance, despite being promised a credit card based on the credit screen.
    • It’s highly unusual for a credit card not to have a Visa or MC logo on the front.
    • They do not list a card issuing bank, which I’ve never seen before.
  • Did they catch BankRate off guard? Google’s cache shows that BankRate previously advertised the card, but 3 weeks later the card has been pulled from the site.

I have enough faith in my readers that I doubt any of you would actually have shipped off $99 to these guys. But still, it would be nice to see them put out of business. In the absence of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, what’s the best way to do that? Asking their web host to take down the site would probably just result in it popping up elsewhere.

The Anacott site says that the $99 payment goes through AlliedWallet, which might be a more fruitful line of attack. They seem to be based in London, but I can’t get through on the phone number they provide there. Still, AllliedWallet did recently put out this press release:

Allied Wallet has engaged the Brand Protection Group to persistently monitor its entire merchant portfolio to ensure its clients remain in compliance with all laws, regulations, and card brand guidelines.

I retain some hope, then, that with the help of AlliedWallet and BrandProtection, Anacott Financial might not last long. Still, the underlying scam — not to mention the underlying scamsters — won’t go away.

The solution is simple: If you’re dealing with any company based solely on their web presence, at the very least do a cursory web search on them first. If the first thing you find is a litany of complaints, it’s probably a good idea to avoid that company.

Comments
19 comments so far

Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Financial

Posted by KidDynamite | Report as abusive

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one thinking that. Anacott Financial is in play.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

Good column, Felix.

I learned long ago that any website or EMail purporting to be from or representing a well-known website, such as eBay for instance, containing as much as a single spelling error was fraudulent. Professionally-managed websites rarely, if ever, have spelling or grammar mistakes. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when perusing sites such as the one you’ve highlighted. Those spelling errors jumped out at me. Caveat emptor.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive

Dodgy to the extreme
I submitted my rat and it generated an excellent FICO Score

Posted by ratface | Report as abusive

I noticed some spelling errors in this article. It’s Experian, not Expirian. Also, there is a typo, “socres”. Those are just the ones i noticed. I am not claiming to be a perfect speller, but if it’s going to be one of the reasons you say not to trust a website i would think you would at least take the time to check your own spelling.

Posted by mstacey | Report as abusive

Ha! Well done mstacey. I’ll leave those typos in, just for you. And let this be a lesson: never accept a credit card from Felix Salmon!

Posted by FelixSalmon | Report as abusive

I just came across this article while doing some research on credit cards…… I was bored, so on a whim went to their site and wanted to let you know that Joe Dumbass, of 666 Devils Way has been approved for a $1600 credit limit! Way to go Joe!

Posted by Katagain | Report as abusive

I fell for this out of sheer desperation. I even did preliminary research, and thought it looked good. Don’t I feel the moron now. Anyhoo, since this fell through, my family of 6 will be evicted at the end of the month. I called and had no trouble getting through to AlliedWallet, and they gave me no trouble finding the charge and returning it. I have a feeling they’ve been getting such calls a lot. Too bad $99 won’t pay my rent.

Posted by Mistangelique | Report as abusive

I too, applied for this card. As soon as I did, I started to have a sick feeling in my stomach. I Googled “Anacott Financial”, and came across many, many complaints. Eventually, I contacted my bank, and requested that the fees be charged back to my account (which they were).

The kicker?

When I called the bank, I was told that my debit card number had been “compromised”, and that I would be issued a new card.

Go figure.

Posted by sdb779 | Report as abusive

Hi Felix:

For your information “Brand Protection” seems to be another scam. When you try to “Report Fraud” at their website, it gives you “error 1″ message. I tried calling their Charlotte, NC number (704.998.5359) and the number is disconnected. I tried sending then an email at “info@brandprotection.org” and it was returned.

I was scammed by Anacott Financial and I called AlliedWallet and they promised to issue a refund within 7 to 10 days. I’ll keep you informed.

Posted by edmarqu | Report as abusive

Hmm… I thought this might be too good to be true, I was emailed this I am going to wait out the 10-14 days, if it does not arrive it looks like people are getting there money back though Allied Wallet, however I can allays call my Credit card company, I would have never given them access to my checking account. Too bad I liked the terms and the offer, we shall see if I get anything or if I get a refund!

show details Oct 9 (3 days ago)

Dear Mr or Mrs, FaiXXXX

Your application has been setup and completed. Expect to receive your new card within 10-14 business days.

Thanks,
Underwriter 10227
Anacott Financial LLC
Two Penn Center Plaza, Suite 200
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215-268-7663 phone
support@anacottfinancial.com
http://www.anacottfinancial.com

Posted by bfailla | Report as abusive

I too am playing the “waiting” game…we’ll see. Honestly, after reading this…I kind of feel sick. I’m normally not this naive, and I was even skeptical saying “this is too good to be true”. Uuuggg…

This is from TODAY (10/13/10)

Dear Mr or Mrs, RXXXX

Your application has been setup and completed. Expect to receive your new card within 10-14 business days.

Thanks,
Underwriter 10227
Anacott Financial LLC
Two Penn Center Plaza, Suite 200
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215-268-7663 phone
support@anacottfinancial.com
http://www.anacottfinancial.com

Posted by joel4283 | Report as abusive

Greeting everyone i also was taken for this ride. i applied sept 8th was approved then by sept 17 the card was supposed to be mailed. a 10-14 day mailing time frame called last week they said card went out you will receive it in a day or two. its a week later no card still. later this morning i will be contacting them for a refund. can someone post the number to allied wallet pls. will also contact bank about this scram that is going on to dispute the $99 fee. When i first considered anacott financial i checked for blogs nothing was up negative about the company beginning of sept. wow they may pack up & split since all these blogs are exposing them. They will reap what they sow. good luck everyone seeking a refund.

Posted by moncheretta | Report as abusive

Greeting everyone i also was taken for this ride. i applied sept 8th was approved then by sept 17 the card was supposed to be mailed. a 10-14 day mailing time frame called last week they said card went out you will receive it in a day or two. its a week later no card still. later this morning i will be contacting them for a refund. can someone post the number to allied wallet pls. will also contact bank about this scram that is going on to dispute the $99 fee. When i first considered anacott financial i checked for blogs nothing was up negative about the company beginning of sept. wow they may pack up & split since all these blogs are exposing them. They will reap what they sow. good luck everyone seeking a refund.

Posted by moncheretta | Report as abusive

Hello Everyone….I received my card today…but….the real news is that it is NOT a credit card you can use. I applied 9-13 and like many of you did some research and did not find negative input at all so went forward with it…what a mistake. Upon receiving the card, the letter says to activate it on the website which I did. The card itself is very strange…it’s durable plastic, but there are no raised numbers or letters (your name) it’s all flat. There is nothing written on the back, just the black swipe line. So right off the bat, I wondered how could I use this card if it does not tell me what type (MC, Visa etc.) it is and also there is no 3 digit code number on the back which is always asked for. So I thought I would go through a MacDonalds drive thru to see if it worked…ha ha. The lady kept swiping and finally said, “Ma’am I don’t know what’s wrong with this card, but it doesn’t register anything on my screen. It’s like I’m not swiping anything.” As I figured…but I kept saying to myself…they already have had my $99.00, why go through the trouble of printing a card and sending it in the mail using a .44 cent stamp?? The envelope was sent from West Palm Beach, FL. I re-read the letter that came with it and it says “this card will allow you access to our professional credit consultants that will help you rebuild your financial future”. On the back it says more under the terms and conditions that you may or may not receive the card you originally inquired about. You may be issued an unsecured card or a credit consulting credit card with different terms and conditions, which is exactly what I must have been given. So there is no need for a MC or Visa backing or raised numbers, or the 3 digit code…I cannot use the darn thing except to use them for credit information!!! I only hope I can get my money back and like many of you..I should have known better that it sounded too easy.

Posted by bbbd | Report as abusive

I recently applied for the same card and they told me that I too was approved for $ 2100.00 and that it was not no shopping card nor prepaid. I sent them my money of $ 99.00 and all my personal information and on Oct. 21, 2010, I received a plastic card with No Logo or (3)digit code on the back. Nothing. I am requesting a Refund and we all need to press charges.

Posted by MadassHell | Report as abusive

Ok…update from me…

As mentioned a few posts above, I received a card that gave me access to $2100 in credit counciling.

I wrote them a stern but clear e-mail that I expected a full refund. But otherwise, I too will be pressing charges.

Posted by joel4283 | Report as abusive

Hi, everyone! I was just about to apply for this card today when I saw Felix’s article. Thanks, Felix! I did some additional research and found some interesting results, also. The website today has their offices at 2 Penn Center Plaza, Suite 200, in Philadelphia. Being from Philadelphia myself, I Googled the address. From the types of results I got, it appears that Suite 200 holds leased small office space that changes lessors VERY frequently. HedgeLender LIC, Master Matchmakers, various lawyers, even a charity group. In fact, I can rent my own office space there for $30/hour, right down the hall from Anacott Financial! How cool is that?!

Check out the floor plan: http://www.americanexecutivecenters.com/ Uploads/FileManager/phila%20floorplan.pd f

Posted by Marbran | Report as abusive
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