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The Great Subscription Swindle – cancel unused services right now!

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Checked your bank account or credit card statements recently? You are probably being swindled, right under your nose.

Chances are, somebody is taking money out of your account for something that you don’t use: gym memberships; credit services; ‘priority booking’ services; utilities; insurance services… the list goes on.

Countless billions of dollars are literally being taken from our accounts without us noticing it. Because the amounts are small, they don’t raise red flags. Lot’s of small payments mount up to be large sums of money. It’s a swindle, and we are all victims of it.

So do you recognize EVERY debit?

Utilities are the most common service that people continue to shell out for, despite no longer needing them. I find this astounding. This closely followed by unused cellphone contracts (some people are still even paying for pagers! So last century…) And then next in the list is insurance – I can understand that one as I found I am insuring for things that I no longer have.

Younger adults are the most likely group to be paying out for an unused cellphone contract… take a look for this in your bank statement! Whilst you’re looking, check for gym memberships too. Some of these are a big chunk of change.

Almost three out of five people say that they look closely at their bank and credit card statements at least once a month; but one in five only check their statements every two and three months; worse still 10 per cent of people only check their statements every three to six months! It’s the over-55 generation that are most financially aware of their outgoings.

Cancelling services

You have found services you no longer use. Great. Now you need to cancel them.

Contact their customer services and cancel. Easy, right?

Not always. These guys are tricky buggers, let me tell you. Firstly they will get you to hold for a long time – an attempt to put you off. Not only is this underhand, it could also be illegal. It still happens. Then they will tempt you with deals to stay subscribed. They will offer you prices that you never thought possible, or add services that you thought you could never afford. Don’t be fooled! It’s a swindle: they just want to keep billing you whilst you’ve forgotten you’re subscribed. For services you don’t use. If you didn’t use them before, what makes you believe you will use them now?

Stay on track, stay on message, and cancel those services.

How to look at your statements and find unexplainable transactions

Every line item on your bank and credit card statements should be explainable. But some won’t be. Some of these transactions appear quite cryptic, as the amount of letters that can be used is limited. Do you keep receipts? These might help you.

Go through your statements with a magic marker and knock off the transactions that you can explain. Then, for those that are with online payment providers such as PayPal, login to those websites and check off each of those. Narrowing the list down. Hopefully, you’re left with a small number of ‘unexplainables’.

Now, next thing to do is to take each transaction left, and do a bit of an investigation.

Take the date of each, open your email app and find all the emails you received on that day, or the day before. Maybe you can find an online confirmation or receipt that explains the transaction on those days?

Some of these transactions have a code – try searching your email folders for that code specifically. Cross off the ones you can explain.

Still have unexplainable transactions? Then these might be the ones draining your account unnecessarily. My advice then is to go into a branch of your bank, or call their customer services, and get their advice. Explain that you have transactions you can’t account for. Before cancelling them, make sure to ask what the penalty might be to you if the transaction is attempted again. Some banks charge you for sending a letter to tell you this!

Check your statements every month

To avoid being swindled out of your hard earned cash, it’s wise to check your statements at least once a month. You really should be able to identify every single transaction.

You might find it easier if you set aside the same day/time every month and put a reminder in your diary to prompt you to do it. With online banking, it’s much easier to do this, rather than to wait for a paper statement.

Don’t get swindled!

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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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