Friday, February 5, 2010

The Old "Discount On Your Next Purchase" Scam

There's an investigation in New York right now into some shady companies that team up with legitimate websites and trick users into signing up for services they don't want under the guise of getting a discount on a future purchase.

The companies under investigation include Barnes & Noble, Orbitz, Expedia, Staples, FTD and Ticketmaster. None of these companies has been charged with anything.
It's called piggybacking and I fell for it once upon a time. It was sometime in 2008. I had just bought some flowers for my mother (awww) for either her birthday or Mother's Day. I had finished my purchase on a flower delivery website I'll call "FroPlowers". I was taken to a screen that congratulated me on my intelligence in buying a bouquet from such a renowned internet retailer. The text went on to compliment me on my stunning good looks and minty-fresh breath. Oh, and by the way, I was eligible for 10% off my next purchase.

I swear I knew this was a setup. To this day I don't know why I clicked on the button to get my coupon code. I never fall for this stuff. I assume everybody on the internet is out to trick me somehow, which is why I sent Jeff Bezos that one letter where I told him to quit shooting his mind rays at me to try and get me to sign up for Amazon Prime.

Anyway, the instant I clicked on the button of doom I noticed an asterisk.

As you well know, asterisks were created by Satan as a tool to allow all sorts of evil, like exempting certain states from honoring a legal ad and permitting the use of 1/2-point fonts at the bottom of contracts. This asterisk was no different. It was only after that button click sent my acquiescence to getting scammed (followed closely by an anguished cry of "noooooooooo") that I realized the page could be scrolled. And what do you think I found once I scrolled down the page to the horrifyingly evil, yet legally binding microfont text to which the other end of that asterisk was attached?

I had agreed to join a "saver's club", where for the low, low price of $14.95 a month I would get all sorts of electronic coupons! Who wouldn't want to be in that club! Me! And everyone else on Earth!

Luckily I was able to cancel immediately by calling the number (discerned after I broke out my electron microscope and found it amongst the demon-writing). I spoke to a surprisingly helpful lady who simply asked me why I wanted to cancel (I replied, "because I will never use this service ever", which didn't seem to faze her a bit -- I'm guessing she hears it a lot) and that was that. I carefully checked my credit card statement, which I do every month anyway, and there was never a charge.

The takeaway here is, if a website wants to give you a discount on your next purchase and it doesn't take the form of an email with a code already in it, it's a scam. Don't fall for it. Don't let Satan win.

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