I have joined the ranks of the scammed. It feels awful. And I feel stupid and taken advantage of…and it was my own fault for 1) not reading the really tiny, hidden fine print…2) for not even thinking there was really tiny, hidden fine print.
I won’t mention the company that burned both my pride and my bank account…if you’re a reader of my blog you know it’s not my practice to bad-mouth anyone or any entity unnecessarily…but if you want to know details of this one, just send me an email. But here’s what happened:
Because I’m a network marketer/direct seller with a home-based business, I spend much time on the internet doing business. I get a lot of emails and I read a lot of blogs. Well, this one was actually a comment sent to me with regards to a post I did on this blog…I didn’t approve the comment because it wasn’t relevant to the post, but the comment was interesting enough that I checked the sender’s accompanying website. It appeared to be a blog itself. I read it and it appeared to be about searching for government and other grants. [I can hear you groaning already…you’re wondering to yourself “surely Linda didn’t fall for this!”] Well, she did. I did.
The post on the “blog” appeared real enough so I looked at the links. The link was for a “free” cd that required only shipping and handling of $1.98. I swear to you that no where on that web page was there wordage that any other strings were attached. You paid the $1.98, were sent the cd and that was that. Well, that was not that.
I was sent an email with a link to my account that would be useful with the cd when I got it. I looked at the page and it had a database on it of grants but it seemed that none of the search items would work and none of the “webinars” would come up. Here’s where I failed…at the bottom of the home page, in the very bottom right corner – you had to scroll down to see it – were the words in tiny print “Terms of Service.” I didn’t see this. I didn’t even know to look for this. And I went on my week’s vacation. When I got back my account had been debited $69.95. I was upset to say the least. It took some real doing to find a phone number – which I finally got from my bank – to get that account closed and learn about the “7-day free trial and then you’re charged $69.95 per month.”
Legally, I don’t have a leg to stand on to get my money back…or my pride. They did put their terms of service on their web page…but here’s where I have a problem with their ethics and integrity:
- the initial “free” cd site should have been very clear about what this was: a monthly service with a fee of $69.95 and what you would get for it
- the “terms of service” should have been first and foremost before you even do anything to obtain the “free” cd
- “free” should be “free”
I then did a search engine search for their company and came up with a host of others who have been prey to this…in some of those cases the offending company seemingly had sold those persons’ account numbers to another scammer who used it to draw money from their accounts unauthorized.
When I went to the bank to see what I could do to further protect my account [I shall keep confidential my actions] my banker told me that it was sad, but he sees the results of scams every day. He said, “It’s sad because we even have a process to deal with this.” It’s not a once-in-a-while occurrence…scammers are out there and “marks” like me fall prey to them everyday.
Here’s what I have learned:
- if it’s “free” but you have to pay postage, look again
- never, ever use your bank account number, use a credit card so that disputes can be handled in a better way
- check with the Better Business Bureau
- do a search of the company…see if negative things come up
- if there are no “terms of service” chances are it’s a scam
Readers, do you have comments and advice you could pass along?