Previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network June 16, 2009
So you think you're dealing with a legitimate company because you read, "As Seen On Oprah," right? Guess what. That's what scam artists want you to think - because in our minds, if Oprah discussed a certain product on her show, she must endorse it. Sadly we further tell ourselves that she and other high-profile celebrities endorse every product associated with their names.
But we forget that not all products come from reputable companies.
The ads draw you in with catchy phrases and what you perceive to be bona fide celebrity endorsements, and then, while you are totally oblivious to what is taking place behind your back, they drain you of your savings.
They start with an ad filled with promises of looking as young as Madonna, and you are drawn to a headline that makes you wonder, how DO these celebrities stay so young and so thin?
Then you see the name of the product, maybe it's Resveratrol (RES V), "apparently" endorsed by a variety of people, including Oprah and Dr. Oz, and you think, Hmm, I might try that - after all, it's FREE, and look whose name appears alongside the product.
The offer for a FREE TRIAL seems irresistible. But BE WARNED - this free product can end up costing sometimes thousands of dollars, depending on how much money you have in your checking account. If you are not aware of the scam, these pilferers will continue to pocket YOUR MONEY until YOUR MONEY is gone.
The terminology they use to attract your attention is proven to work on people who want to look younger, healthier, or just better. All they have to do is get a celebrity to endorse their product and BAM! It's Sold!
HOWEVER, "As Seen On Oprah" says NOTHING about Oprah recommending the product or endorsing THAT PARTICULAR COMPANY'S SPECIFIC PRODUCT. All it says is, "as seen on."
So what happens when you order the FREE TRIAL and how is it even possible for them to bilk you of your entire savings?
Here's how it works: When you follow the link to a web site that tells you the product is free, but the shipping will cost you, be forewarned!
ENTERING YOUR CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD NUMBER IS THE BEGINNING OF THE EXTRACTION OF YOUR MONEY! That is when the thieves get you, because when you give them your debit or credit card information, you give them access to your account. And like pigs at a trough, they eat voraciously, several times a day, until they gather sometimes $300 a day or more until you are left with NOTHING. Unless you call your bank every day, you may not notice your missing funds until it is too late.
And what happens when you call the bank to report the problem? They ask you if you notified the company. Yes, you have called the number on the package or bottle numerous times. NOBODY responds. These companies get phone lines they NEVER answer just to LOOK legitimate. The bank has no address on file to give you, and they remind you that THEY are not responsible for the transaction - YOU, after all, were the one who approved the sale.
You argue with them that you approved no such thing, that you wanted only a free trial, that you haven't received anything other than the free trial. And the bank reminds you that you gave out your card number.
In sheer terror you try calling the company again. You hear the phone ring and ring. You make breakfast, take care of business, make lunch, take care of more business - and NEVER talk to a live person, no matter how long you stay on the phone.
And it gets worse. Not only will these crooks charge you over and over again for a product you wanted to try for free - they charge your account for products you never ordered, like acåi berry vitamins and other products you see on the sides of Internet sites you visit.
How do they get away with this fraud? YOU allowed them access to your account. And unless you cut up your credit or debit card and get issued a new one, you will continue to be bled dry from these mosquito-sucking leeches.
These villains are not prosecutable, because they cannot be found. You will never find them on America's Most Wanted, because they are faceless and nameless. They do have one thing in common with some of the most notorious criminals - they are conscienceless as well. If you discover that your money has been stolen, you can report the criminal activity, but you may never be able to prosecute him or her.
The best way to handle online orders is to deal only with reputable companies whose online access includes a phone number where you can interact with real people. If you are in doubt about the company's validity, order a free sample from somebody who actually speaks with you.
And if you see the words, "You can cancel at any time," assume it's an ongoing purchase. Even if you don't actually authorize or agree to the purchase, by merely handing over your debit or credit card information, the company and the bank automatically assume that YOU are responsible for any and all transactions that take place between you and the disreputable company.
You will not be able dispute charges that are still pending though. You will have to wait until the charges actually go through the system. At that time you will have to go through the time-consuming dispute process, where you will discontinue the card the thieves have already stolen, wait for a new card to arrive, go to the bank to process the paperwork, and hopefully learn never to order anything again from ads that promise to make you thin while the only thing thinning out is the money they extract from your checking account or credit card month after month after month.
If you are considering purchasing anything online, find out immediately from your bank how they deal with Internet fraud. It is highly likely they have already dealt with disreputable companies and, though they have no address, they have phone numbers from other victims of Internet crime.
Even though it would do no good to report the fraud, because the people who sell the products are protected merely because they live in foreign countries and will never be prosecuted for their misdeeds, it's always a good idea to alert others either by forwarding a link to this article in an email or blog, and by contacting either the Better Business Bureau, Internet Crime Complaint Center, or Consumer Fraud Reporting. Here are the links: