Ex-Credit Card Bankers: [Confessions]

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via Consumerist by Meg Marco on 9/25/08

: "Every Customer Who Calls In Is A Mark. It's A Great Big Con." [Confessions]

CNN has an interview with two former credit card bankers who are admitting that their job was to get consumers to max out their credit cards and take on as much debt as possible, regardless of the customer's ability to afford it. They both worked for MBNA at their "sprawling consumer call center in Belfast, Maine." The bankers say that they were told to aggressively push cash advances, and were trained to convince consumers that they needed the maximum amount of debt at the highest interest rate.

"Every customer who calls in is a mark. It's a great big con," said Colombo, who estimates that she alone sold almost a quarter of a billion dollars in the four years she worked for MBNA before it was bought in 2005 by Bank of America."

The bankers told CNN that their job was to convince people that they needed to borrow more money than they thought they did. They were trained to look for "trigger words" — mentions of difficulty making car payments or college tuition, for example. They were even trained on how to get around the law — if someone called in to try to get a cash advance for a down payment on a house (not legal) they were told to say:

"I cannot give you money to use as a down-payment on a home. However, what I can do is, I can deposit some money into your checking account, and once it's there, the funds are there, it's yours to do with what you please."

Most disturbing of all is the fact that the bankers say that the vast majority of people didn't want to take on that much debt:

"I would say 90 percent of the time, people were pragmatic. They would say, 'I don't need $100,000,' and we would find a way to convince them they needed the money," Ellingwood recalled.

They also said they were pressured not to let the stockholders down — and were chastised for letting people get away without maxing out their available credit.

Bank of America, which now owns MBNA, says that these accusations are "inaccurate."

"Our call center associates are focused on serving customer financial needs and responding to questions about their accounts," said Bank of America.

Luckily, one of the former bankers provided her performance review to CNN.

"You cannot sell what you don't offer," it reads. "Understand the importance of selling at the highest possible rate."

Ex-bankers on pushing customers to rack up debt [CNN]

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