One of the things no one is going to tell you when you make Aliyah is how to keep your money safe. And what I am about to tell you may be the best pieces of financial advise you will get.
As most people quickly realize, rules and contracts can be quite flexible in Israel (and not in your favor). Anyone who has a cellphone plan tends to learn that within 6 months of signing up and having their plan changed on them.
But what is more worrisome is when can happen with your bank or credit card.
The MOST DANGEROUS document you can sign in Israel is the Hora’at Keva (Direct Withdrawal Order).
Many companies and organizations request that you sign a Hora’at Keva document if you want to sign a contract/subscription with them. This may be a phone company, the Iriya/Moetza, a gas company, a car leasing company, or even a donation to a cause.
This document lets them withdraw their payment directly from your bank account.
They’ll tell you that it is easier. They’ll tell you that they require it. They'll tell you it's safer.
DON’T DO IT.
I can’t emphasize this enough (and I speak from multiple experiences).
Besides that you should always check what you need to pay someone before you pay it, there are serious ramifications to this document.
This document grants these organization full access to withdraw however much they want from your account. I mean it.
The banks generally do not check to see if there is a limit in place (if the specific order even mentioned a ceiling) – and it can be an innocent mistake, or it can be on purpose, but once you sign this document, I will guarantee that at some point some organization will pull out more than they should (or more than you think they should) - much more.
And depending on the organization, getting your money back may be difficult if not impossible.
The problem also extends to credit cards. Once an organization has your credit card, many of them keep it on file. Some of them have been known to decide on their own to extend your subscription, your donation or even to buy you a gift.
Some credit card companies are more responsive than others when this happens, but I have yet to hear of them penalizing the seller for these criminal actions.
So what are your options?
Sometimes you have to have a Hora’at Keva. And far too often you need a credit card (and did you notice that the banks don’t offer debit cards – as far as I know).
I recommend you open an account at the Post Office Bank – perhaps even two (one under your name, the other, your spouses). If you must do a Hora’at Keva, link it from there, and only put in enough each month to cover the withdrawals you expect that month.
This way you can put a ceiling on how much money someone can steal in any given month from your account. Splitting it between 2 accounts drops that ceiling even lower.
As for the credit card, my experience has been that you can (probably) trust in the credit card company to deal with it at their own pace, once you fax them your detailed complaint and make some followup calls, or you can go back to the Post Office and buy prepaid credit cards from them.
The Post Office Prepaid Credit Cards are much closer to debit cards. You fill them up (once) and that’s all there is in them.
They don't offer any protection, and they don't work everywhere and have other limitations, but if you want to do a one time deal with a company and are concerned they may charge you again in a few months time, this may be the way to go.
All this is a little extra work, but if it saves you a few thousand shekels in fraudulently withdrawn money, it’s worth it.
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