Random Recollection

Fraud, the growing industry

Yatindra Bhatnagar

With the general economic activity and mechanization, come development, growth and also unemployment, discontent and fraud. The human brain invents methods to get easy money and frauds, scams , hacking of the sensitive data, identity theft and the like are also growing.

Millions of not-so-smart people are made victims of these tricks and frauds. I have also been a victim of some and it becomes quite difficult to get out of it unless you are clever enough, and resist the temptation.  One of the recent frauds I experienced is being played on unsuspecting customers by some companies.

Reputed companies send you a flyer inviting you to order some items at up to 90% of the original cost. You like the thing and order without realizing that somewhere, in small print, is the condition that by ordering that particular item you agree to receive regularly other items at the original cost which would be up to ten times what you paid for the first one.

You often don’t read or care to read or just have not read that you will be made a ‘regular customer’ and would keep getting items every month or every week something at a very high price.

Even when you send the unordered item back at your own expense, chances are that the company would not acknowledge that they have received it and would ask you to pay for it. They would also ignore your repeated instructions on the invoice that ‘don’t send me anything I have not ordered.’

I have been victim of this kind of fraud, ‘legal deception’ or dirty trick.

The recent one I discovered is ‘The Survey’ fraud.

You either get a letter for a survey – generally it’s online --  and you are requested to complete a 2 or 3 minute survey by a reputed company. You answer a few innocent-looking questions, like how many times you travel, have you purchased such and such thing recently, etc. 

After you ‘successfully complete’ the survey there is a ‘thank you’ you are asked to choose any item from the list and just pay a nominal shipping and handling fee. The FREE items include high-priced face cream, watches, or other nice things. You pay the S&H and think you have got a good bargain.

Your free item arrives and you are happy with it.

Your next month’s bank statement will show another big charge for yet another item you did not order but since you had asked for the free item and paid S&H (presumably with your credit card) you are supposed to be enrolled in the list of their regular customer receiving and paying for the item at the higher price.

I had this experience. I contacted my bank and stopped payment/put under dispute. The banker told me that in addition there is another charge for similar or the same new design and has also been charge (as that company had my credit card number).  My bank assured me that it’s another kind of fraud and that they will stop payment and take up the matter with the other company. My bank asked me to take up the matter with the sender company.

I did that and after some arguments I was told that once you agree to a free item it denotes your agreement to join ‘our’ list of regular customers. The shipping-handling charge was not for the free item but for joining and getting membership for regularly buying things at the ‘original’ price.

I stoutly refused to ‘buy’ that argument and refused to pay anything. On that the company rep started bargaining saying : Okay you pay 75%, then 50%. I won’t budge. In the end he agreed to ‘cancel’ my ‘order.’

Even with all that I don’t know for sure if the company would stop sending me unordered items and expecting me to pay. They have my credit card number and e-mail address.

I have learnt a new lesson: Don’t participate in surveys like that and if you do, don’t agree to get a ‘free’ item by paying just the S&H fee.

In the last I had been getting surprisingly huge offers to share the ‘other party’s wealth’ and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in areas and projects of ‘my choice.’ This wealth was said to be ‘taken out’ of the country by its former rulers. I was just required to show my sincere and serious interest by sending a nominal amount of a couple hundred dollars and give them my bank account number.

It was too good to be an honest proposition and I just ignored it.

There might be some others who fell for it. Beware!