While trying to recover background information on several individuals I took the bait and subscribed to the Net Detective basic addition from Harris Digital Publishing which has multiple reference sites to use its product on the internet. I paid the $29 flat fee to try the basic edition. Using myself and several close friends whose backgrounds and information I know as a control group I quickly determined that the basic edition of Net Detective is only a link to internet white pages posted for free by many different services online.
My own name pulled up my current address but not any previous addresses although I have only been at this residence for a few years. A search of phone numbers for myself and the other members of the control group was hit or miss. My phone number was accessed, a couple of others were not. A search of cell phone numbers turned up nothing for any member.
Net Detective provides a link to Net Detective Plus edition which they claim makes up the difference for their lack of performance for the basic edition, this is of course after you have already subscribed to the basic edition. They offer a 3 day trial period for a flat fee of $10 and since it wasn't that much I decided to try Net Detective Plus. Using my same control group of myself and friends Net Detective Plus did yield some information which I can later research out from other areas, however the veracity of it is in question. For instance it pulled up my own name with the correct current physical addres, showed that my level of education was "completed college" which is correct,
the correct year my home was built as well as the exact date that I closed on Title. My initial home purchase price was listed to within $3000 of the actual finance amount which may have been rounded off or may have been gleaned from one of three refinances I have done over the past few years. It revealed my net income to be between $35K - $49K which is lower than my correct salary, but may reflect records from several years past. The appraised value of my home was way, way low showing the records to be at least 2 1/2 years old which was before the current housing increase bubble we are now in. My guess as to where they got this information was from self reporting....meaning that anytime I filled out a questionaire online, such as for subscription to an online magazine or one of several single dating sites I have belonged to over the years, they paid the purveyors of these sites for that information, which is why it shows my level of education but not the university I attended. The danger here is that if I had been wanted to misrepresent myself to those sites (for instance to post on a dating site that my income was actually around $100K) that is what this search would reflect. The correct date and approximate amount of my home sale was taken from public recorder records or a lender record during finance at some date. Most states have links to property ownership online for this service for free as my state and county also does. A search on the rest of the control group turned up like results. A search of the individuals I was then trying to do background checks on also turned up like results and did provide enough brain information for me to search elsewhere for the records although I would not go by the records posted here as being all that accurate. Going into the links of the states where by background check individuals previously resided provided only multitudes of dead links to county recorders offices, etc. A search of criminal records for two individuals that I know were previoulsy in prison with the state criterias that they served in turned up nothing as did a search within my own state of a individual whom I worked with who had been convicted of child molestation and is currently serving time, even though the state lists all current convicts in all prisons and all convicted sex offenders online. After all this my opinion was that I almost....almost got enough for my $39 worth. Net Detecitve's data base they maintain I believe is paid for from self reporting sites as a sponsor trade off to that site, so beware when you fill out questionaires and you see their's or another detctive sites banner as a sponsor.
The eye opener came three days later when my banking statement showed I was billed another $29.95 by Net Detective for services I had not subscribed to. I contacted my bank who said they would turn it over to fraud control and the F.B.I. but that my credit card account would be closed and I would have to open a new account. My bank advised trying to resolve the issue with Net Detective first and asked if perhaps I did not sign up for the service without knowing so. I went back into the link page to Net Detective Plus and under the terms of agreement found that I in fact did sign up for it without knowing so. By linking the terms of agreement, which I had only given a casual look at when signing for the $10 three day trial period, it says that if cancellation is not made BY PHONE within three days the trial period lapses into a perpetual $29.95 fee agreement, of which any part is "NON-REFUNDABLE" (in capital letters in their agreement) unless cancellaction is received by 6:00 p.m. EST of the third day. The terms say that "as emails can be misrouted and the identity of the user cannot be verified from an email, no cancellation requests sent via email will be honored". I did not thouroughly read this because I have signed for many reputable trial periods for software from a hundred different sites and not one has ever lapsed into a subscription period or been termed to lapse into a subscription period. This means the actual trial period of $10 for three days comes out to $3 per day which is three times more that I would have paid for a monthly subscription of $29.95 a month which is $1 a day.
Since the credit card I use online has an applied for low credit ceiling to use online (something I suggest everyone acquire through your personal bank) and any other charges would have been dismissed as funds not available, I deemed it to be more a hassle to end the card than try to contact customer support at Net Detective. I called a 1-800 number listed to the credit card charge as stated on my account. The first day I called and all I could get was the usual "if you know your partie's extension, press....."
The second day I called again and after the same recording left my phone number when it queued to leave a call back number with the information that I needed to talk to a representative about ending my account subscription. To this day I have not received a call back. On the third day I called the number for account support actually listed on the Net Detective Plus site, which is (386) 736-3881. I listened to a recording of their hours of operation and some information about how if the site was not performing to expectations you could do this or that to fine tune it, but no operator answered even though it was still in business hours in Florida. On the fourth day after being on hold for approximately half an hour listening to the same recording as the day before a female voice answered and when I told her I wanted to end the account subscription and gave her my order ID number she said "fine, you will not be billed again....an email will be sent to your email box" and she hung up. Keep in mind this is a long distance call of which I was on hold for about half an hour to reach an live operator.
I received an email to my email box about ten minutes later stating that my subscription had been queuded for cancellation and to contact customer support if I had any questions...no "thank you for the service"..nothing.
While talking to the female operator I could here a child (or maybe a television) in the background which left me with the belief that this was not a business environment but more likely someone's home. It left me wondering how someone would be able to cancel service within three days even if they wanted to do so. I am now waiting to see if the charges continues as I have all the information to go to my state's attorney general and the F.B.I. for fraud if they do so. That will be much better than getting a refund :o) at least in my opinion.
So, here is the bottom line.....if everything I encountered sounds like a company you want to do business with and you don't find those tactics deceptive and designed to be deceptive, then please, let your concious be your guide. As with anything you buy anywhere it is a case of LET THE BEWARE ! I have been very careful to report only what happened to me and the results verbatim and not slander them as I believe that a company like this that has several dozen links to them online waits for someone to print something uprovable. This is merely an exercise of my First Admendment Liberties based on my personal experience and personal opinions.
Las Vegas, Nevada
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on NET Detective