On 9/18/2007 I ordered a people search report from intelius.com. I have dealt with intelius many times over the past couple of years, and they were a company I thought I could trust.
On 9/18/2007 I received an email from Privacy Matters with the heading: UNLESS YOU CANCEL, YOUR CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT WILL BE CHARGED. I figured it was a phishing email, reported it as spam to the FTC, and forgot about it.
While doing a routine check on my bank account last night, I discovered a charge of $14.95 on 9/27/2007 from MC-PMIDENTITY.CO226627804 888-840-6301. It immediately followed the fee I'd paid to intelius.com. I called my bank and told them this was a fraudulent charge. They advised that I call the Fraud Department today to get it handled, which I did, and the charge will be removed from my account. Unfortunately, this also involves canceling my current card and reissuing a new debit card, which will inconvenience me for at least a week to ten days until it and the PIN arrive under separate cover.
Last night I called the number listed for the Privacy Matters cancellation line, and was quite disturbed that in order to complete the process, you have to key in your credit card number, and you don't even get a live person to yell at. But hell, that CC# wasn't going to be active after today, so what.
Last night I spent researching this company and found many entries here and at consumeraffairs.com (under Vertrue, the parent company). I also filed formal complaints with the FTC and our state's attorney general's office, and on consumeraffairs.com.
Today I called Intelius to ask them how Privacy Matters got my CC# from them, since it was obvious that was the source due to a mention in the Privacy Matters email touting access to Intelius's services. Intelius flat-out told me that there is an additional pop-up menu at the payment submit stage that automatically signs you up for Privacy Matters. I told them they should discontinue this practice as it is underhanded, makes their company look bad, and will lose them customers--like me and anyone else I know.
Vertrue is the the parent company of Adaptive Marketing, which is the parent company of Privacy Matters, Bargain Network, Coverdell, Lavalife, Memberworks Canada, MyChoiceMedical, and NeverBlue Media. They are also associated with a company called Simple Escapes.
In their previous incarnation as MemberWorks, in June 1999 Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch sued US Bank, charging it had sold its customers' private financial information to MemberWorks for $4 million, plus a commission on sales to those customers. Hatch also sued MemberWorks, charging it used a deceptive and misleading telemarketing sales pitch to solicit these consumers to join a variety of membership clubs allegedly offering discounts on health products, entertainment and travel.
In September 2000 MemberWorks reached [an] agreement with the State of New York, settling charges of telemarketing abuses in connection with its sales of lifestyle club memberships which offered consumers alleged savings on a variety of products and services involving entertainment, shopping, home improvement, and health care.
In February 2001 MemberWorks reached a settlement with the Nebraska Attorney General's Office over its marketing practices.
Three months later, MemberWorks settled similar consumer complaints with the State of California. This time, MemberWorks and its marketing partner Sears were called to account for the manner in which MemberWorks club memberships were sold.
In October 2003, following a three year investigation, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist sued MemberWorks for violations of state consumer protection laws.
"Charging customers for products without their knowledge is fraud," said Crist. "These citizens were unknowingly victimized and deserve to be reimbursed."
In late 2002 MemberWorks announced a major marketing agreement with America Online, the once dominate [sic] Internet Service Provider, at that point struggling amidst the dot-com implosion. The agreement gave MemberWorks the opportunity to market its membership clubs to millions of AOL subscribers.
Today, Vertrue markets a number of membership products in partnership with some of the nation's best known retailers and Web sites, including Classmates.com and AOL.
Consumers who find themselves enrolled in Simple Escapes or any other membership program against their will should demand a proof of purchase from their credit card company, who will then be obliged to demand it from the marketing company.
I have since terminated my account at Classmates.com and I'm trying to cancel my account at intelius.com but haven't figured out how just yet.
Southern California, California