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Creepy: Capital One warns customers of personal visits at home or work

Capitol One says it can visit customers at home or at work.
Capitol One says it can visit customers at home or at work.
Paul Taggart/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In a recent contract update sent to cardholders, Capital One warned that it reserves the right to contact customers “in any manner we choose,” including a “personal visit" at "your home and at your place of employment," The Blaze reported Tuesday.

Naturally, the new language has some customers concerned.

"The police need a court order to pull off something like that," said Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazarus. But not Capital One.

Rick Rofman, a 71-year-old resident of Van Nuys, Calif., was "spooked" by the new language, Lazarus said.

"Even the Internal Revenue Service cannot visit you at home without an arrest warrant," he said.

While the language sounds invasive and creepy, Daniel E. Kann, an attorney who specializes in illegal-search cases, said the new contract does not appear to violate the Fourth Amendment.

Kann explained the Fourth Amendment applies to searches conducted by government authorities. Private companies like Capital One can reserve the right to visit a customer's home or office without a court order.

But the company could be held accountable under laws dealing with harassment or stalking, he added, especially if it decided to hang around one's cubicle or invite itself to dinner.

Lazarus reported the company also says it may engage in spoofing.

"We may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose," the contract says.

"Now that's just freaky," Lazarus said. "Cap One is saying it can trick you into picking up the phone by using what looks like a local number or masquerading as something it's not, such as Save the Puppies or a similarly friendly-seeming bogus organization."

The technique is known as spoofing, and while federal law prohibits spoofing for criminal activity, it is completely legal for companies like Capital One to engage in what the courts call "non-harmful spoofing."

Telemarketers use this technique, Lazarus said, adding that it's "weird" for a company like Capital One to engage in this kind of behavior.

The Blaze said that even if Capitol One is not engaging in illegal behavior, it certainly isn't doing much to build consumer trust.

Update: After the LA Times column sparked a firestorm of controversy, the bank scrambled to reassure customers it won't make personal visits.

"Capital One does not visit our cardholders, nor do we send debt collectors to their homes or work," the company said.

The bank also says it may change the way it writes its rules.



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