August 07, 2010

Did You Really Order That?

Dear Readers,

How well do you check your credit or debit card statements? Do you match every purchase against a receipt? Do you even get receipts for every single purchase?

Odds are you don't check your statements line by line, matching every receipt. Most likely you browse the items on the statement and if they look reasonable you go ahead and pay the bill.

This writer fits that description as well. There are two of us who share a credit card and once in a while I might question a purchase or two, and it may take some thinking -- but usually we figure out what the purchase was.

Well, there was a very small purchase of $12 that I noticed somewhere along the way but shrugged off because it was so small. Then I didn't notice it again until a recent bill when it dawned on me that I'd seen that purchase before. A bit of research showed that it had been showing up on our bill for over a year. In our case the purchase read:

SHOPPER DISCOUNTS 800-889-8776 CT $12.00

I contacted the credit card company and said I did not know what it was but that it seems to have been showing up on our statements for a while. They seemed unsurprised when they saw the entry and were easily (too easily) able to immediately reverse several of the charges. For the rest we needed to contact Shopper Discounts directly.

We contacted Shopper Discounts. They insisted we fill out a form that they would provide and they would determine whether or not to give back the rest of our money. I made them email the form. Of course, the form did not provide any way to actually state that this was a bogus recurring charge. I modified their form to clearly state that these were bogus charges. We also included a letter clearly stating we did not sign up for what is supposedly a membership in an online shopping site. (As readers of this newsletter know, this writer runs a separate online shopping site that is free for anyone to use, and so we would have no reason to join such a site to get the same great buys). We also clearly indicated that we were sending copies of our letter and form to the credit card company.

Here is what I eventually discovered. We made a purchase online some time ago at an online flower website (that no longer appears on At the end of the purchase process there was some kind of offer to save more money. The claim by Shopper Discounts is that we clicked on something and opted into this membership. That never happened. At best we might have clicked to see what the offer was. We never signed up.

The good news is we did get all our money back (but without any interest and without an apology).

In this writer's opinion this is a scam, and the credit card companies are apparently aware of it but choose to look the other way -- probably because if a cardholder doesn't notice and keeps paying (as we did for quite some time), the credit card company makes money too. And since the merchant seems somewhat willing to give back all the money to anyone who eventually complains, the credit card company does not consider it a scam. This must be very lucrative to both the credit card companies and to Shopper Discounts.

Beware! Check your statements very carefully.
And please note: I suspect that Shopper Discounts is only one such possible item that may show up on your statement -- so don't assume that if you do not see a charge from Shopper Discounts that you have not been hit by a similar scam.

Richard Kuper
The Kuper Report