17

I am hoping someone can help me determine if I was scammed (and need to cancel my card). My gut says scam but I want to be sure.

I was trying to obtain a PDF textbook by signing up for a free trial on a website pdfgoes.com. It required a $1 charge for the free trial afterwards I could cancel (which I had a lapse of judgement and thought was ok). I put in my credit card and received 2 $1 charges on my card, and I received emails saying I have accounts on musclesnation.com and thegames-forest.com (which I did not want to make an account on). I logged into my new account on these websites and cancelled my subscriptions that I was automatically signed up for.

I couldn't find anything that these websites are used for phishing or scams at all. Does this sound like a typical scam? Or is this maybe just a poor way to boost subscriptions on other websites? These websites look poorly maintained and kind of sketchy.

2
  • 14
    It's a thin line between "scam" and "not entirely above board business practices" but so far, I would lean towards the latter. You might still want to get in touch with our credit card provider and discuss with them.
    – tripleee
    Jan 5, 2023 at 7:43
  • 2
    Were these other subscriptions in the fine print somewhere? If your answer is not a certified "no" then I'll assume yes.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jan 5, 2023 at 20:34

5 Answers 5

34

It is actually possible that you technically did consent to these charges through some intentionally bad designed UI somewhere during the signup process. This is a dark pattern of dubious legality called "sneak into basket".

One thing you can do in such a case is dispute those charges with your credit card company. You will get your money back and the company pulling the scam will probably not put up a fight to avoid causing too much attention. You might also want to monitor your credit card statements carefully over the next couple month in case they try to charge you again, and dispute those charges too.

Another thing you should do is make sure you are actually unsubscribed. Because this pattern is often combined with another dark pattern: The "roach motel" where a cancellation process is intentionally designed to be unnecessarily hard to find, complicated, buggy and prone to tricking the user into thinking they completed it when they actually didn't.

2
  • 14
    It turns out my credit card provider takes a dim view of sneak into basket.
    – Joshua
    Jan 5, 2023 at 19:47
  • 13
    Credit Card companies, on the whole, don't like "sneak into basket" or even "roach motel" because it causes them too much trouble/reputational issues etc. Definitely dispute the charges so the CC company gets involved - what's going on may well be outside their Terms of Service, which will either get the websites involved to be fixed, or in extreme cases have their CC abilities removed. Either way, you'll get your money back, and will insulate yourself from any further misdeeds done to your credit card. Jan 6, 2023 at 10:40
14

At the bottom of the payment page, there is an option to get another trial for a different site. The trial is for 5 days and here the subscription fee is €24.99 per month.

That "option":

  • Is probably not visible without scrolling on many displays
  • Uses a slightly smaller font than anything else on the screen
  • And most importantly, it is pre-checked!

This is clearly sneaky. I would probably file a chargeback, and report them to their payment processor (Bill1st), though it's quite possible it's one of those "we charge the merchant a higher fee and close our eyes" operations.

But what can you expect from a site which (pretends to) sell access to what are probably illegal copies of books? Did you even get access to that PDF?

12

If they tricked you into signing up for an extra service that you didn't want, then you were scammed. The idea would be to collect a couple of months of service fees before you notice and cancel it. The monthly fee was going to be more than $1

This is different scam than somebody wanting to get control of your credit card account. They have proof that you agreed to the extra service. They count on most people begrudgingly paying the price.

You have to decide if you want to go through the pain of getting a new credit card number. There is also a chance, based on other questions at this site, that switching numbers might not block their ability to bill you in the future.

4
  • These days, is getting a "lost or stolen" credit card really that difficult? I've actually found a few credit cards laying on the ground. I've called the 800 number on the back, gotten through to the lost/stolen dept. Told them I've found the card, given them the number, and told them they should cancel the card and issue the owner a new one. Probably wasn't any more of an inconvenience for the proper owner than if they'd done it (and maybe they'd already called it in).
    – FreeMan
    Jan 5, 2023 at 18:30
  • 4
    @FreeMan I agree that replacing out physical debit/credit cards for most modern banks is very simple. However I think the inconvenience lies in changing all of the services that may use a card (online subscriptions, auto-bill pay) etc. I wouldn't call any of this "difficult", just inconvenient.
    – rob
    Jan 5, 2023 at 19:17
  • 1
    @rob I had one card in the US where the provider would continue to process charges to the old number for monthly subscriptions that they recognized, so there was no inconvenience.
    – Badger
    Jan 5, 2023 at 19:58
  • 3
    @badger that convenience has caused people issues when the scammer was able to reconnect to the new card. Jan 5, 2023 at 22:32
2

Deal bloody vengeance. This behavior should be actively and ruthlessly punished.

Do a chargeback

Contact your credit card company and tell them you didn't authorize the additional charges. This has a very bad effect on the illicit vendor.

Credit card companies do not like chargebacks. Whenever a merchant has a chargeback, they punish them several ways: first by charging them an investigation fee, second (if they have a high rate of chargebacks compared to successful transactions) they will increase their fees for all transactions and delay their payments, and third if the chargeback rate is serious enough, they will ban them from doing credit cards altogether and seize their last owed payments to settle anticipated chargebacks.

So it really screws them up when you do a chargeback by contacting your credit card company. If the crook is dealing with a shady bank, then that will also put the bank under stress. Everyone who does a chargeback helps this. Everyone who "lets it slide" enables these crooks.

The credit card system Does Not Like transactions like this, and will punish their practitioners.

I wouldn't bother canceling/reissuing the credit card unless the issuer asks you to. For one thing this doesn't cancel recurring subscriptions - they follow you onto the new card number. What's more, if the shady site does use your card data again, it means they retained your expiry and CVV#! Which they are absolutely not allowed to do. There is no non-criminal reason to retain that data - their re-use of that data is prima facie evidence of crime. And obviously you can chargeback that as well. Dare them to! LOL

Do not deal with shady sites directly!

They are shady, obviously! If you let them reverse the charge, then they evade the chargeback consequences they richly deserve.

You have no reason to interact with them. You have no obligation to "try to resolve the dispute with the company first" because you never had a relationship with them in the first place. Treat it as fraud, let them pay the consequences to the credit card system.

This is a typical "crooks targeting crooks" scam

College students are frustrated because textbooks which they are assigned are often very high priced. Some students illegally scan copies of the textbook and distribute it online for free, typically using P2P file sharing... which is technically complex to do secretly. Whether this is flat out crime or civil disobedience against injustice is a complex subject I won't address here.

Due to the complexity of P2P file sharing, students look for an easier way. There are often "PDF sites" which mirror all the stuff found on P2P websites, or merely pretend to do so.

So the concept is that they are hoping the customer won't report them because the customer is breaking the law. But that doesn't make any sense. What is their "nuclear option"? Telling the textbook publisher exactly what you were downloading. But to do that, they would be also admitting to the publisher that they hosted the book for distribution for pay. And that is much worse. And, they have no incentive not to lie, since their report would be retaliatory. So the deterrent makes no sense.

0

It required a 1$ charge for the free trial afterwards I could cancel

There's a lot a scam and/or piracy websites claiming offers like this, and your website certainly looks a lot like one of them. They are able to offer such a deal because of one of the following:

  1. They actually have no intention of delivering what they promised.
  2. What they offer was freely/cheaply obtained though other piracy websites.
  3. They are reselling something they bought without the license to redistribute.

Anyhow, there goal is likely one or more of the following:

  1. Charge you that dollar, or whatever they can get you to pay though a legitimate payment service.
  2. Directly collect your payment information to use or sell (credit card fraud).

If you are vigilant enough to be sure you only entered your payment information on a legitimate PCI compliant payment processing website (PayPal, Stripe, etc), disputing the charges should be enough. If you think they may have entered your payment information on a sketchier website, it may be wise to cancel your card and get a new number.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .