In Your Corner: Hidden Web Costs

By Ryan Elijah

June 18, 2010 Updated May 29, 2009 at 12:04 PM EDT

In April, Elizabeth King saw a charge for $19.95 on her checking statement that she didn't recognize.
In May, the same charge appeared from a company called Valuemax, she then called the number listed hoping to find some answers.
Elizabeth King "I didn't recognize the name of the company, but I use my care all the time. After the 2nd charge, I called the company but I couldn't reach anyone."
Ryan Elijah- when you notice the charge on your bill, there usually is a 1-800 number to call and stop the charges, but many times consumers find that number is not exactly user friendly, in fact, when Elizabeth called she got another sales pitch
Recording: "The number you have called is a national directory assistance number"
That Sales pitch was for a company offering telephone directory assistance, Elizabeth called her bank and got a new account to stop the charges. Since she still isn't sure where they came from, we took a closer look at Valuemax and found countless complaints about the company. According to the Better Business Bureau, Valuemax is one of over 2 dozen DBA names operating under a holding company called Vertrue, Incorporated. They have over 2500 complaints on file with the BBB. They are listed with an F rating, due to a pattern of complaints about unauthorized charges to credit cards.
Marjorie Stephens "basically, they're taking advantage of people that don't read the small print and people really need to be careful"
While companies are required to show charges, they're often hidden in that "small print", here you can see under offer details that a 19.95 charge will be debited by Intelius.com for Identity protection, many consumers use a credit card to pay a fee as small as 2 dollars and don't realize the charges are coming when a 7-day "free trial" ends.
Ryan Elijah "there wasn't any fine print? Elizabeth "if there was I missed it."
Marjorie Stephens/BBB "it's easy to fall into, people think it can't happen to them, but it can happen if you're not careful"
Vertrue sent us a copy of a letter indicating that Elizabeth made a purchase on Intelius.com and was then taken to a quote "landing" page that included a 7-day free trial, which they say she agreed to... However, they tell us they are refunding her 2 charges for 19.95 and apologize for any misunderstanding. Our advise to consumers, dig deeper on the companies you're doing business with and certainly read the fine print. Banks tell us this is a common occurrence, they encourage some customers to have a credit card that they use strictly for online purchases.
For feedback on this story click on the "two cents" link or go to Twitter.com/ryanelijah
If you have a situation you'd like Ryan to look into, follow the link to submit your story idea. http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/news/yourcorner




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