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Anatomy of an Internet Scam Artist: How to Avoid the Trap
Paying for the Google Kit that Never Came
I once had the misfortune of someone who flew over a cuckoo’s nest of the worst fraud on the Web, one that is still going on although such scam is well documented. I am reporting this experience to warn others and to help them avoid the harrowing experience that I went through.
It all began with a rather innocent looking banner ad I saw at the Yahoo website, which brought me to the URL, “http://www.nickgetsgreen.com/index.html?t202id=812205&t202kw=adready”. What it said was (and you can look it up yourself) this guy named Nick recently saved himself from near bankruptcy by coming across a work-at-home opportunity which was as easy as 1-2-3. All you have to do to make money is just post links online for the mighty Google.
I am sure you have all seen a rich variation of this scheme by now. The most vulnerable to this scheme are those people who just lost their job due to the prevailing economic depression. So there I was looking for a better job; look what I got myself into.
The ad I am referring to also said that I have to hurry because the Google kit is only available for a limited time and that I could have it for just $2. The ad had the Google and CNN logos which helped me think that it was legit. I think what helped cement that mental perception was that recently, the Oprah Show ran a segment on how couples survive in these tough economic times, where one couple was featured to have overcome near bankruptcy after getting a job posting online links for Google.
Oh mighty Oprah! Not that I am blaming her, it is just to show her immense influence on the public, myself in particular. I do feel responsible for the mistake I made.
Nick said in the ad that he was able to get married because he finally found a stable, high paying, and work-at-home job. He even had wedding picture on his site! How enticing! Was there a wedding ring? I did not check that
The long and short of it was I signed up for the Google kit with my credit card and accepted the charge for $1.97. I told myself, what could I possibly lose by paying $2? In my hurry, I skipped reading the Terms of Agreement, long as it was—huge, huge mistake! Another huge mistake was harboring feelings of great expectation for when the Google kit finally arrives. Freedom, at last! You know what? The Google disk never arrived!
I waited and waited, until one month after; I saw this $87.09 on my credit card statement which prompted me to contact customer service. The representative asked me to contact the number on my statement, “MONY TREE SYSTEMS 866-3336895 UT.” I spoke to a representative named Britney who asked for my phone number, etc., and to whom I explained the reason I was calling. Britney asked me how come I did not read the terms of service which said that after a certain period of time I will be charged if I did not cancel the service.
I explained back to her that I did not receive any disc in the mail so how could I cancel the service? Thereupon she refused to cancel the charge and gave me some cryptic cancellation number of sorts. She promised that I will never be charged on my credit card again and I trusted her. My credit card company’s customer service rep told me, “just remember, if it’s good to be true, it’s probably a scam.” She asked me to fill up a dispute form to get the charge reversed. She even googled Mony Tree Systems for me and gave me more 1-800 numbers to dial.
And here is what the Mony Tree Systems website said: “If your credit or debit card was charged $72.21 or $3.88 it was not from us. It is a company in Nevada or Utah offering a free trial CD. We do not sell CD’s or information on how to get rich with Google. Please call them to cancel your subscription so you are not charged again. You can find information about them at ripoffreport.com just type in Google money tree. We only charge your card if you have purchased something from everythingbutcake.com. We own and operate the websites below…”
How bizarre everything was shaping up to be. First I did not get any Google kit in the mail, and then there was this almost $100 charge! Oh Oprah! However, I would soon realize that this was not yet the end of my ordeal.
The good news was my credit card company was gracious enough to reverse the charges for me. Obviously, they realized it was a fraud so they managed to take care if it quickly. Since then, however, I have gotten into the habit of checking my credit card statements, and was I thankful I did. For lo and behold, in less than a month there was another unauthorized charge on my credit card, this time it was for $28!
Knowing the drill by now (thanks to my credit card’s customer service), I called the 1-800 number on the charge in my statement and I reached a guy named Ernie at Grant Masters, who said I must have ordered something for the charge to have occurred, but he would not say what it was. In fact it sounded like he did not even know what it was I ordered. What surprised me even further was that he gave me an order date that was exactly the date when I ordered the so-called Google kit!
Blood was rushing through my veins. It felt like I was reading the climax of my favorite spy novel. Because it can only mean one thing--my credit card information got passed on from one illegitimate company to another! Imagine that, all it took was one innocent order for a disc worth $2, one that never arrived in the mail.
So folks, this is what I have learned, among other things. The reason why schemes like this succeed is because when you order the disc, the disc will never arrive in the mail. Because you know what? That disc doesn’t exist; and watch those unauthorized credit card charges, they will surely come. When they do, they will surely make you feel like the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse just arrived.
Since it was obvious the whole thing was a scam, the second charge got reversed again by my credit card company, which had advised that I change my credit card number immediately. But imagine all the hassles one simple mouse click caused me. I am not blaming Oprah.I am not blaming Google either. It appears the company has nothing to do with this. I finally realized that the scam’s strategy was to associate itself with some big names (remember Google and CNN logos) to lure unsuspecting victims to such elaborate online trap.
What a scam! In case you have not noticed, the perpetrators of this growing scam are getting bolder and are now flashing a snapshot of the green Google cheque which they proudly claim they receive in the mail on a regular basis. I have been trying to get a close up of this cheque just to see if it is legitimate but due to some animation hocus pocus I couldn’t (if you can, let me know). So lucrative this approach has been that even eBay’s name is now being used as well. Now eBay has the so-called eBay startup kit and let me guess. If you order this disc, it will not arrive in the mail, correct? This startup kit is even cheaper; it is only $1 to order
Times have become so difficult that more and more people are resorting to these evil schemes. So how are these folks making money? Of course, they are. How many people out there do you think have the time to read the Terms of Service, which is typically as long as the phonebook, or for that matter, to check on their credit card statements religiously.
So the moral of the story? Like my credit card company’s customer service has said, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. And when you see a work-at-home ad with a picture of a couple happily married and enjoying a trip to the Bermudas, there’s your queue. Remember, do not click! These illegitimate ads will show you their luxurious lifestyle is yours to have. Even grandma can do it! But the truth is, not only will the disc never ever arrive in the mail, it will take you ages to earn even a penny from these schemes.
The only ones who are getting rich are those who are making these ads and defrauding millions of online surfers of their money. How? By not checking their credit card statements, or not having the time to report the incident. I still believe there are many legitimate offers out there on the Web. I also believe, however, that these legitimate promotions are getting a backlash from unscrupulous offenders out to earn big bucks from unsuspecting web surfers.