Realm Of Randomness

November 16, 2007

Scammed! A 108$ lesson on online theft [Updated]

Filed under: Scam — Randomizer @ 1:52 am

Putting my earlier 2$ lesson to shame, I now am unwittingly ‘enlightened’ by a new lesson – unfortunately, this one cost me fifty times more than the last one :( .

How do I know if I’ve been scammed?

When I checked my bank account yesterday, which is connected to my debit card, I saw a 9$ charge that looked like this:

CHECK CRD PURCHASE 11/11 WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS 800-7327031 CT …

I could not really recollect what this was, so I googled ‘WLI reservation rewards’, only to see that from the second search listing onwards, every listing had the words Webloyalty and scam in it. I quickly went back to my account to see how long this has been going on… and to my utter shock, it ran all the way till late 2006! And this charge totally collected 12 x 9$ = 108$ from my bank! In a statement full of bills that often run to hundreds of dollars, this 9$ charge easily escaped my attention.

What is it?

I looked up the website of WebLoyalty and found that it is supposedly some kind of ‘discount program direct marketing firm’ which claims to have millions of satisfied customers. To this day, I don’t remember ever signing up for it. Apparently, I am not alone. More than 2000 other people don’t remember this either. I researched on this scam and made a diagram showing how it works:

WebLoyalty Scam

(1) Sites like priceline.com, orbitz.com, expedia.com and many more reputed sites are legal ‘clients’ of WebLoyalty. When a customer purchases something on these sites, a pop-up window shows up.

(2) The window in some cases asks you ‘would you like 10$ off your next purchase from expedia?’ or in other cases, it might be a step in the check-out phase for your buy. You are never asked to provide any credit card/debit card details, all you are asked is your email-address or a button to say ‘yes’.

(3) Voila! That is all there is to it -> Your secret, treasured credit-card information happily travels through the all-so-secure gateway from expedia.com straight into the hands of WebLoyalty, with no notification to the user that this ever happened!

(4) WebLoyalty enrolls you into their ‘discount program’, which does exactly what? Nothing. It just takes 9$ from your account every month. What a great deal, huh?

How are they getting away with it ?

Though I’m a victim of this scam, I’m amazed at the pure brains behind it.

  • The 9$ charge goes unnoticed by millions of customers. A dollar more and it would catch your attention.
  • They send mails to the users who ‘signed up’, but they make sure the mail looks like spam! If it gets past your spam blocker, you will see a mail saying ‘Save 10$ on dining services today!’. What you don’t know is that at the bottom of this mail that is disguised to look like spam, they inform you of your 9$ charge! Pure genius, if you ask me.
  • They refund money instantaneously to anyone who complains :). The first option when I called their toll-free number was ‘Cancel membership?’. That is the mark of a true mastermind. Who cares about the 5000 people who were smart enough to notice the charge? Let’s give them their money back, no questions asked. There are millions of people who don’t know, and they comprise our ‘satisfied customers’.
  • They are rich enough now (I read somewhere they have a turnover of 560 million US$) to hire lawyers to build a fortress around them. They are an evil and strong empire, just like Scientology and it will take time to bring them down. They were sued in 2006, but I have yet to find out whatever resulted from the lawsuit. They seem to be functioning as usual.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Your credit-card is on sale, and there is nothing you can do about it. The only choice is to scrutinize your account statements every month and make sure you remember every transaction. If you can’t, make sure you find out – otherwise, you might just be paying a monthly sum to a shady business somewhere in this mangled world of the internet. Check your accounts right now!

And help spread the word !

[Update: I got my refund back yesterday, and I can finally put this scam behind me, carrying forward the knowledge of this whole exercise. Luckily, Webloyalty is so scared of the American justice system that it is willing to refund everyone who discovers these charges… no questions, no roadblocks – ask for a refund, get it in 3 days. They know they didn’t offer me any service during the last year, so they can’t even say ‘Hey, but what about all that we have done for you over the last year?’ . Anyways, next time around, we may not be so lucky – so keep your watch on all those statements! ]

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19 Comments »

  1. You don’t have to ask *me* twice… searched all my accounts for mysterious single-digit numbers.

    so did you get your $108 back? or only the $9?

    Comment by Erwin — November 18, 2007 @ 12:43 am | Reply

  2. It so good to have you blogging again…

    To set the record straight you got screwed over for 54x your previous record of the $2 scam as opposed to the 50x that you indicated :)

    OK, sorry to rub it in… but this is a very popular gimmick and I’m surprised that you haven’t heard of it before. I’m not sure what form of marketing they refer to this as, but I call it dirty marketing. Its underhanded and well downright dirty…

    As for Ewy’s question – in all probability they’ll just refund your last deduction or the past two if you’re lucky. The fine print on their ‘SPAM mail invoices’ would clearly state that you’d have up to a month or 40 days to dispute the deduction.

    This scam has been going on for real long and it happens all over the world. As a banker I can tell you its partly the bank’s fault as they have agreed to this in order to create new income streams as well as the customer’s fault for not having paid attention. Needless to say, we all know that WebLoyalty are B*#tards, but that doesn’t get your money back now does it!

    I’m assuming you only have a debit card, which is great because these sort of scams work very well with Credit Cards and they hit you with much smaller amounts like a dollar or two but up to 3/4 times a month. Most people don’t realize it until years have gone by. Most of these minor deductions are for insurance charges, purchase protection charges, etc. The problem is these charges amount to no real protection at all – the insurance charges are usually for $10K-$20K and require you to either be dead or horribly maimed in some form of an accident in order to claim. Even then there is a lengthy process if you want to try to make a claim. The purchase protection charges claim to refund the purchase price if the product is damaged or stolen within a stipulated amount of time. What you usually don’t know is purchase protection usually has a lower and upper limit on purchases, so anything less than say $100 would not be refunded and probably anything over $1000-$2000 will not be refunded either. Limits vary for each card issuer. Another thing about purchase protection is it doesn’t cover items that are already covered under other insurance schemes. They also don’t cover goods that are covered by manufacturer’s warranties! So basically what it boils down to is – you get nothing for paying those purchase protection charges.

    There are always new insurance charges and scams being launched by banks/card companies/insurers, etc. and if you want to stay safe, you have got to do the following:

    1. Don’t throw away direct mailers from the banks/finance/card companies without opening them and reading them. More often than not they’ll just send you a leaflet in the mail that says for the first month or two the product is being provided for free but thereafter it’ll hit your account unless you take the trouble to call their (usually) toll free number and have it cancelled
    2. Maintain a folder for all receipts pertaining to your plastic (Debit/Credit) transactions. At the end of each month tally EACH bill against your credit card statement. You’ll be surprised at what you come across. Do the same for debit card transactions. Credit Card statements are mailed out monthly, but bank statements are usually sent out on a quarterly/half-yearly basis… so make sure you apply for online banking/e-banking facilities and check your statements online. Don’t wait for 3/6 months before reviewing the statements because by then you would have crossed almost every dispute date. NOTE: Never throw away any of your receipts without shredding them. All it takes a fraudster to create a dummy card is one receipt as all the information required is on it!
    3. Pay special attention to any transaction lower than $5/$10. These may not be banks/card companies trying to scam you but card fraudsters that have gotten a hold of your card information. They usually have a trial transaction online for one or two dollars to ensure that the card is active and has an available limit on it. Most card companies have fraud detection systems that detect such transactions and then flag them, but the transactions are then checked manually by calling up customers. Given that card fraud is a multi-billion dollar business, it is very difficult to keep tabs on every transaction, which is why you have to be all the more cautious. If you have a transaction that you can’t identify, contact the card issuer and inform them about the transaction and ask where it originated from. More often than not it’ll be overseas. If so immediately cancel the card and any other card(s) that are linked to that account.
    4. If ever you loose a card, report it immediately as the law stipulates that a card holder cannot be liable for any charges on the card so long as the original card is still in the possession of the card holder.
    5. Request a supplementary card on your credit card – this is one of the smartest things you could do. Take a smaller limit card as a supplementary card and set the limit at something that will cover your monthly expenses. Use this card to cover all your normal day-to-day expenses and leave the primary card in a safe place at home. If ever your card or card info is stolen, all that the thief will have access to is your supplementary card limit which is a smaller hit than your primary card limit. Use the primary card only to make large purchases that you plan in advance.
    6. On an all together separate note, have your Credit Report printed out by your bank every 6 months or so – pay whatever they charge you for it to ensure you aren’t the victim of any identity theft.

    Most of these tips are fairly obvious to most of us, yet we wait until something bad happens to put them into play. I have had to learn the hard way and I do hope that this LONG response helps you and others that read it.

    Comment by Luciferratic — November 18, 2007 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

  3. @Erwin: When I called up their customer service, the rep said all my money will be refunded within 3-5 business days, and she didn’t seem to have the slightest problem in assuring me that. Going by what people are saying on the internet, they will refund it all as long as you keep pursuing them, which is what I’m obviously going to be doing…. let’s see what happens by the end of this week! Hope the money is back where it belongs.

    @Luciferratic: Great tips! It’s a mystery why you haven’t started blogging on your own as yet … I think there’s a term for these sorts of things, its called ‘Negative marketing’. I have no idea how that is even legal .. the merchant assumes that the customer has *already* bought the product, and it is up to the customer to run behind the merchant to cancel the sale. That is just ridiculous. A customer’s money should be spent *only* if he pro-actively makes a purchase. It’s almost like a person stealing your TV and then saying ‘Hey, you didn’t say that DIDN’T want your TV stolen – as long as you didn’t say that, I can steal without consequences’.

    What is also ridiculous is how an entire organization that is based on such scams is successfully running – not in terms of legal issues, but by the people they employed. So this WebLoyalty thing has 300 employees now, and are we to assume that all these people have no idea their company is a scam? Or are all of them with such loose moral systems that they are ready to deal with it? It’s funny how we easily seem to dismiss blatant thefts by organizations as ‘shady business practices’ …

    Anyways, it’s great to have a banker’s point of view on this one, and welcome back!

    Comment by Randomizer — November 18, 2007 @ 3:29 pm | Reply

  4. Dear Blogger:

    We have recently come across this blog, and would like the opportunity to answer your questions or address your concerns about our membership program, Reservation Rewards. However, we don’t know who you are.

    We encourage you to contact our Customer Service team at 1-800-732-7031 or send us an email at consumeraffairs@webloyalty.com. One of our dedicated customer service representatives will be happy to help you either by answering questions about how the membership was actually initiated or provide you with a refund if you are unhappy with the membership.

    Webloyalty tries to ensure that Reservation Rewards members understand and derive full discount and insurance benefits from their memberships. Your feedback is both important and valuable to us.

    Regards,
    Mary O’Reilly
    Webloyalty Consumer Affairs
    Reservation Rewards

    Comment by Webloyalty Consumer Affairs — November 18, 2007 @ 9:59 pm | Reply

  5. @Webloyalty – As expected, I got my money back, and I am relieved ( NOT grateful ). I neither have the time nor the resources to go after a company like yours, but this post is the least I can do to warn my friends about negative marketing, online theft, and the dangers involved with buying items off the internet.

    And yes, I find it strangely ironic that your company is called ‘Web Loyalty‘ when all it has done really is destroy consumer confidence over the web – at least to the people who were lucky enough to have discovered you and the charges for your mystery service.

    Comment by Randomizer — November 22, 2007 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  6. […] Yeah, take that, WebLoyalty, for screwing around with a blogger! […]

    Pingback by How the world finds this site « Realm Of Randomness — November 29, 2007 @ 1:35 am | Reply

  7. The wheels of justice turn very, very slowly.

    The case is still running its course and defendants have just filed their answers to the 2nd Amended Consolidated Complaint. The case, filed in USDC – District of Massachusetts is:

    In Re: Webloyalty.com, Inc. Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation (MDL 07-1820)

    Comment by Charlie — November 29, 2007 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  8. @Charlie: Thanks for the update! :) Am glad that the case is still on. I am sure that justice will be served.

    Comment by Randomizer — December 8, 2007 @ 12:59 am | Reply

  9. I just came across another article about how card companies dupe their customers into paying the card protection insurance charges. I had forgotten to mention this earlier so heads up.

    If you pay a card protection insurance(or whatever else they call it) on your credit card the card issuer informs you that in the event that your card gets stolen and used the insurance company will settle such bills. However, what they dont tell you is if the card isn’t stolen and just the card information, i.e., your card #, date of expiry and verification code is stolen you are liable to pay.

    Very convenient isn’t it, especially given that most card fraud now a days is the theft of card information when you hand over your card for payment and the same is swiped on a seperate reader to store your information. The stored data could then be mailed to people in Thailand/India/China or any other country where a dummy card will be printed with your details and purchases made against them.

    So yep, don’t be conned into taking on card protection insurance as it doesn’t make any difference. Just be more aware of your cards, keep them safe and cancel them the moment you’re not comfortable about a transaction or more.

    Comment by Luciferratic — December 10, 2007 @ 8:54 am | Reply

  10. Very true, online scams like these are multi-million dollar business now-a-days. So, unless you are extra careful wrt your bank/cc statements you are so surely being ready for duping yourselves for your hard earned money.
    I keep a watch on my bank and cc statements online on a daily basis, does not take more than few min and im assured that evertyhing is all right with my money.
    Last week I booked my airline ticket from Expedia, and they charged my card for double the fare as compared to the receipt I got. Needless to say, Expedia refused to accept the fact that they’ave taken double the money from my account. because of this I ended up paying 160 $ for no suffcient charges and overdraw penalty to the account. I called up back, and the lady was helpful and caring enough to understand that these ba****ds were at fault to take away money like this. I have promptly filed a dispute on these transaction with the bank, expecting to get the money back in a day or two. Will update further as and when I get it, or if I get into futher trouble with this.
    While I was checking this, I came across one more common term to dupe innocent people like us, “Authorization Hold”,I was totally unaware of this and when I googled it, got hell lot of information, Pls go through these links to get more idea.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/31/business/31debit.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_hold

    Comment by PM — December 13, 2007 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

  11. @PM – Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your input !

    Comment by Randomizer — December 17, 2007 @ 2:30 am | Reply

  12. I just wanted to say how helpful I found this post. My account had been charged for 24 months the $9 fee, and supposedly this happened after I signed up for airport parking on airport parking reservations.com. I first card my bank card company, then called the reservation rewards center. The reservation rewards center is fully refunding my money, which I am relieved to find out so I hope others become aware of this scam too.

    Comment by Dheart — February 15, 2008 @ 2:34 am | Reply

  13. Glad this post could be of help!

    Comment by Randomizer — February 19, 2008 @ 1:30 am | Reply

  14. […] more from the original source:  Scammed! A 108$ lesson on online theft [Updated] « Realm Of Randomness  Mail this postAKPC_IDS += "348,";Popularity: unranked [?] var UserClicked=false; […]

    Pingback by Scammed! A 108$ lesson on online theft [Updated] « Realm Of Randomness | Nationwide Internet Banking — November 13, 2009 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

  15. I am doing a story on scams of the decade. I love the graphic you have here. Would you mind if I used it for my blog post?

    Comment by scams xposed — December 15, 2009 @ 6:14 pm | Reply

  16. Who doesn’t check their credit card statement every month? And who actually says Yes to a deal that’s too good to be true? Come on people, if you were walking out of a store and someone handed you a coupon for $10 off your next purchase and said, “hey, do you want to join our buyer’s club for $29 a month?”, wouldn’t you say “go to hell?” Or are people so greedy that they would say yes just to pocket $10?

    And secondly, why is Webloyalty the bad guy (because you can’t read the fine print) when it was Expedia that gave them your credit card number anyway? And didn’t you consent to that by saying “Gee, I’m a greedy son of a b*tch, give me my $10!”???

    People need to grow up. If you wouldn’t do it offline (in the real world) why do it online?

    Comment by Adam — May 4, 2010 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

  17. The scam is that many people thought they were NOT going to pay 29.95 per month since they nevery gave Web loyalty permission to charge their card by proviing the card number. It was never clear that webloyalty was getting the Credit Card information from the website of the original purchase.

    To use your analogy it would be like getting a $10 coupon from some at the store and that person going to the cashier to get a copy of your credit card after you walked away. That would be fraud. You didn’t know they were given your credit card number.

    Comment by scams xposed — June 9, 2010 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  18. Hi there, just became aware of your blog via Google, and located that it is really informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you happen to proceed this in future. Lots of other people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    Comment by Fraud — September 11, 2012 @ 8:26 am | Reply

  19. […] Un blogger USA spiega nel 2007 come funzionava […]

    Pingback by Antitrust: 1,7 milioni di multa a Webloyalty e Alitalia — April 23, 2016 @ 3:25 pm | Reply


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