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Originally published December 7 2009

Watch out for sneaky online shopping scams

by Paul Louis, staff writer

(Natural News) After over a decade of complaints to Better Business Bureaus and state Attorney Generals (AGs), a Senate Commerce Committee finished a full scale investigation of "questionable business practices" in e-commerce this past November.

The Committee exposed devious methods the third party marketing groups of Affinion, Vertrue, and Webloyalty use with online ordering sites to get your credit card information for their own revenue. Those three companies have represented high profile businesses. A few examples are: Barnes and Noble, Orbitz, 1-800-Flowers, Continental Airlines, and US Airways, among others.

You may think those reputable companies were conned. But after questioning over a dozen of the retail partners associated with them and reviewing emails between the retailers and those marketing groups, it was discovered that the retailers knew exactly what was going on. After all, those three marketing groups were offering kickbacks from their revenue as part of the deal.

Not all retailers went along with this. After receiving so many complaints from customers who had been duped, a few other companies withdrew their partnerships from the marketing groups.

How They Do It

If you go online to order from a retailer of your choice that happens to be a partner with one of those three marketing groups, pop-ups or confusing messages appear before finishing the order. It could be a cash back offer for leaving your email address, or confusing yes and no buttons that can lead you into unfamiliar territory.

These confusing displays lead unsuspecting online purchasers into unknowingly becoming paying members of the third party's "buying club". If not canceled within a short time, the third party marketing group bills you up to $20 a month on the same credit card used for your legitimate online purchase. Some of those who had complained were billed for months before they knew what was happening.

It appears this investigation may lead to positive action against these scams. Until then, be on the lookout for confusing end-of-purchase arrangements online.

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