Huge scam, just popped up on myspace and other high traffic sites recently. I paid $1.90 for Grant information and was immediately pointed to a Government publications website that the Federal Government maintains FOR FREE.
No biggie, I think-- realistically, you have to qualify and apply for grants to get them-- no one just blindly writes you a $13,000 "stimulus check', but I was considering SBA funding for a small business in the future, and the convenience of being pointed to that resource without too much searching was easily worth $1.90 (or however much).
More than a month later, I receive a $94.89 charge to my debit card from IDS Grants. I call the number (I'm righteously pissed, of course) and was told that I could "cancel my membership", but that I had "Agreed" to pay $94.84 per month for "access" after expiration of a trial period.
Ok--bullsh*t, thinks I. I'm too darn careful with the terms of "trial memberships" that end in charges for something I don't want or need-- the "Credit monitoring Services" come to mind, but also free offers for mp3 downloads, etc-- I cancel as soon as I've gotten whatever it is I want, and I would DISTINCTLY remember a prospective $94.84 "access fee"-- the myficoscore.com thing comes to mind-- I promptly cancelled well before the 30 day notice, because I don't trust any company that promises to notify me without making the methods of cancelling early readily known and available.
The customer service rep, after talking to me like an errant child and an ignoramous, informs me that I need to request a refund by email. I get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, and the email DEMANDS that I print, sign and fax a statement that I will not pursue relief through my bank or VISA, and that I agree that I will only negotiate a refund through grantsforyounow.com. In the statement, which effectively signs away all rights to pursue a refund through normal, proper channels, like VISA, there is no promise or guarantee of a refund IF I SIGN.
Nope, thinks I. Not signing it. The customer service rep basically laughed in my face (over the phone) and bragged that "we win 99% of our disputes". I'm sure they do, if everyone signs their statement and throws their rights of dispute away. I make repeated demands for a refund with no response, including threatening to go to the Attorney General of Washington State's office-- this is no idle threat, I live in Olympia, the capitol city of WA, and it's no more than a 15 minute drive with traffic. No response.
Screw it. I save the emails and go to my bank. I fill out the dispute paperwork, and get a call in about a week from one of my account managers (helps to bank with the same small member-owned credit union for years and years, btw). She asks me to forward the emails from grantstoyounow.com, which I do-- she comments that the language is rather suspicious and unusual, and notes,like I did, tha I would have effectively signed away my rights to dispute if in anger,I had signed the statement-- lesson here: DON'T SIGN-- DON'T ACCEPT AN 88 DAY WAITING PERIOD-- they are waiting for the deadline for you to dispute to pass. CONTACT YOUR BANK or VISA or your credit card company. The customer service rep tries to explain that if they issue refunds without the paperwork, VISA often comes behind them and issues ANOTHER refund, doubling the refund amount-- THIS IS A LIE-- credit card issuers aren't stupid either, and they are in the business of making money via the interest charged against your balance-- they don't make blind, stupid mistakes either. Needless to say, I got refunded before my account manager was even off the phone with me.
Figure this company has the big bucks to buy display ad on Myspace, which has HUGE traffic stats. Let's say they get just a few hits-- 1,000,000-- which is a tiny fraction of daily myspace users. Multiply that by $1.90, that's nearly $2,000,000 just in sign up fees. Say they keep 1/2 of the subsequent charges of $94.89 for those 1m hits-- that's nearly $50,000,000. BIG BUCKS!!!
Someone needs to class action these creeps.
EDitor's Suggestions on how to get your money back!
HERE IS WHAT RIP-OFF REPORT SUGGESTS YOU DO:
Go to your bank within 60 days of the charge, or as soon as you know about the charge, don't delay, and tell them that there has been fraudulent activity within your account. Explain that you wish to file a dispute, and demand that they assist you in accordance with Federal Regulation E.
According to the majority of victims interviewed by Rip-off Report, those who immediately called their banks to dispute the charges did not get very far. Many victims got the following responses from their banks: we could not do anything for you or you waited too long; it has been more than 60 days.
If the bank is says that you have waited too long, explain to them how you called their 800 number as soon as the charges were found, and were told by the bank that nothing could be done. Remind the bank that they failed to assist you properly at the 800 #, and instead, provided you with an inadequate explanation of your right to dispute. Tell the bank that it's their fault time has expired, and since they gave you the wrong info to begin with, they will just have to deal with it, take the loss and reverse the charges.
Tell them the truth; this was unauthorized and your account was NOT to be charged! Keep emphasizing how you never authorized anything! Direct them to the hundreds of victims reports that were filed on Rip-off Report.com. And if you're at the bank, walk them over to their computer and make them go to this site! If you are on the phone with them, tell them you will wait while they access this site! Either way, be persistent!
DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER!
Let them know nicely, that you were advised to Report them (the Bank) and this situation to the Banking Commission in your state. Since each state has a different name for the agency/controller over banks, find that name before you call or get to the bank so you can throw it in their face. The more knowledgeable you appear to be, the further you will get.
And just continue to demand the Federal Regulation E form! The bank CAN, MUST and WILL reverse the charge! But, you must be persistent; ask to speak to the supervisor or the area manager for all the branches in the state.
Let the bank personnel know you are meeting with the media later in the day, that you would much rather they do the right thing (as most other banks have) by looking at the complaints and immediately reversing the charge(s) to your account; no matter how long ago it was. Be sure to call the Media if necessary so you are telling the truth.
If you have to, be loud (but nice) in front of other customers. If you are just calling by phone, the above tactics should still work. The bank can easily fax or mail to you the Federal Regulation E dispute form.
CHARGES TO YOUR CREDIT CARD
If the charge was to your credit card (not debit card, check card, or checking account), contact the credit card company as soon as possible to request a dispute form. Consumers usually have a little longer to dispute fraudulent credit card charges (up to 6 months), but it is better to act right away. In this type of situation, credit card disputes are usually successful since fraudulent companies often won't contest the disputed charge. In rare cases, credit card companies will review disputes, but refuse to reverse the charges. If this occurs, complain to a manager and let them know you will be filing a report here.
Remember Don't let them get away with it! Make sure they make the Rip-off Report .. The more Reports filed on a Company or individual, the more likely it is that the authorities, media and attorneys will want to take action.
And good luck Let us know how you do!
ED Magedson Founder
Author of www.ripoffrevenge.com
PO Box 310, Tempe, Arizona 85280