For nearly 100 years, now, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has worked with businesses to help them to regulate themselves. More and more over the past few years it appears that companies are popping up with the sole purpose of scamming people. They just want the cold hard cash from hard-working Americans.
About five years ago the BBB noticed a couple companies that were selling diet products using a negative option. They sold their products via the Internet and charged consumers a low up-front fee (usually under $5) and then hit the consumers with a monthly fee (usually somewhere around $70 - $90) after a short trial period. Two of the first companies that we noticed were Ultralife Fitness and JAB Ventures LLC. Both the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and the Federal Trade Commission took action against these companies.
Unfortunately, there are now hundreds of the same types of offers out there – they include diet pills (hoodia, acai berry, amla berry and green tea to name a few), offers to make money using Google, and obtaining government grants. We issued a warning about these offers, but the complaints keep pouring into BBBs across the country.
The companies use a trial offer as the hook to get consumers to bite and give their credit or debit account number. They hide the terms and conditions down at the bottom of the page (or worse yet use only a link), so that the only money the consumer thinks they’ll “lose” if it isn’t a legitimate offer is the couple bucks that they are paying to get a “free” CD or bottle of pills or whatever. In reality, consumers can lose hundreds of dollars if they aren’t careful!
One of the companies doing this is googlemoneytree.com. This company is located in Utah. The State of Texas recently asked for a temporary restraining order against this company and several other companies, and Jonathan Eborn individually (collectively known as the defendants).
The State of Texas alleges that the “defendants are engaged in an elaborate scheme designed to deceive consumers so that they will sign up for defendants’ work from home program.” The full text can be accessed on the State of Texas’s website.
The Better Business Bureau system has hundreds of thousands of reports on companies across the United States and Canada (www.bbb.org), which can be accessed 24/7. Yet consumers are still being taken advantage of each day because they didn’t check our reports. If there was one thing I could remind consumers to do it would be to check out each company BEFORE you do business. That goes for online sales and business you conduct face to face.