online shoppingIf you’ve ever been shopping on a site and been presented with the chance to join a “loyalty program”, you may have been looking at what the government is now investigating as a scam.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is looking into three firms — Vertrue, Webloyalty, and Affinion — that engaged in post transaction marketing that caused consumers to receive charges to their credit cards that they never knew they had authorized.

The three firms worked with major online retailers to build pages that looked just like any other page from the retailer that offered consumers the chance to join a loyalty program.  The page would say that all it needed was for you to enter your email address, but in the fine print it said that by entering your email address you were authorizing them to charge your card a monthly fee.  The fees continued until the customers would find the charge on their cards, and in some cases people did not notice them for years.

All told, consumers were bilked for a reported $1.4 billion, with nearly half of that going to the retailers that partnered up with these firms.  Vertrue and Webloyalty say they have now changed the way people agree to the programs, while Affinion has not yet made any statements.

You can see the full list of sites at the bottom of this post of the companies involved with the scheme, and it is certainly a troubling roster.  This was not unknown mom-and-pop online stores, these were household names like Barnes & Noble, Time Life, Victoria’s Secret and more.

I have seen these offers over the years, and I honestly avoided them simply because I didn’t want more spam mail in my life.  There are some valuable lessons here though for all online shoppers as we enter what is expected to be the busiest ever holiday online shopping season:

  • If something seems odd, it probably is.  Why would a retailer ask for your email address after you just went through an order process?  They already have it.
  • Make sure to check your credit card bill every month, and make sure you know exactly what every charge is on that bill.
  • Always make sure to read the fine print of any offers.

This story couldn’t be timed worse with the holiday shopping season upon us, but it also couldn’t be a greater shame that companies you should be able to trust allowed themselves to be involved in such a scheme.


Categories: Shopping   

One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Lawrence Sandlan
    September 18th, 2016 at 12:32 am #

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