Man, woman and money are easily parted. The organisations that rule on our disputes with banks, insurance companies, financial providers, ACC, telcos and power companies hear similar sad stories over and over again.
By not understanding a contract, we can lose millions. Here are some things to watch out for:
Many Kiwis don't think before agreeing to be guarantor for friends, family and even employers. In one case heard by Financial Disputes Complaints Limited (FSCL) a staff member guaranteed his boss's loan - and was left owing $80,000 for his boss's losses. FSCL says it should be mandatory to get legal advice.
The feckless ex
The Banking Ombudsman's files are littered with cases where a former partner's debts come back to haunt their ex. Guarantees signed together for loans, joint accounts and mortgages aren't automatically cancelled if you split. One man was turned down for a loan thanks to an unpaid credit card his ex-wife continued to use. He had to pay it off.
Get rich quick by trading
You know those adverts that suggest you can get rich investing in options, currency or betting? Often they're selling special software. But if it really worked they wouldn't need to sell it to you. They could use it to get rich quick themselves. "Some companies in this market are fraudulent and do not do what they claim," says Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden.
Watch what you sign
Utilities Disputes hears too many cases where consumers switch providers not realising there will be a sizeable break fee. One was hit with an early termination fee when he switched providers. He claimed he wasn't told, but the telephone recording said otherwise.
The consequences of lying to your insurer are dire. Too many Kiwis think white lies to get cheaper premiums or bump up a claim are a victimless crime. They're not. They cost the rest of us in sky-high premiums. A claim can be declined because of a single exaggeration.
It's fraud and the names of those caught are added to the Insurance Claims Register, says Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) Karen Stevens, making it almost impossible to get insurance in the future. It can stop some from borrowing to buy a home because they can't get house insurance.
Kiwis routinely fail to disclose driving offences, vehicle modifications, previous health events, claims declined by other insurers, criminal convictions and more when they get insurance. Your policy can be cancelled if it's not based on the complete truth, because you're not paying to cover the real risk. In one case a woman didn't tell a new insurer she'd had a contents claim declined in the past. When her car was stolen subsequently, her claim was declined for non-disclosure.
Are you really a first-home buyer?
KiwiSavers sometimes get caught out when they apply for a first home withdrawal or the HomeStart grant. The Financial Dispute Resolution Service (FDRS) heard a case where a man applied to withdraw KiwiSaver funds to build his first home on land he already owned. His KiwiSaver withdrawal was declined. When this happens first home buyers risk losing the home and their deposit thanks to making assumptions.
No room to roam
Telecommunication Dispute Resolution hears expensive cases about roaming charges.
A recent case involved a Kiwi who took his shiny new iPhone to Vietnam in late 2016 for a three-week holiday and came home with a $15,500 bill for roaming. The moral of the tale is: turn off data roaming when overseas.
Love and money often lead to scammers. In another case heard by FSCL, a man was conned into sending money overseas as an upfront investment for an "exciting" business opportunity. Kiwis are also conned into sending money for online lovers to fly to New Zealand. They lose the money and can't get it back even if they complain. If a business opportunity or online partner sounds too good to be true, then run.
Read the darned document
The majority of complaints outlined here wouldn't be necessary if the individual had read and understood their policy or contract.