Talia Marquez says she was virtual window shopping on Amazon.com when a pop-up ad appeared asking if she would take part in a survey.
The ad promised to send a small piece of jewelry in exchange for a few mouse clicks. Her only cost would be $6 for shipping, which she paid for with her debit card.
And that, Marquez says, is where all the trouble started.
Two weeks later, she got a notice her debit account was overdrawn. As she looked to see why, she saw a $98 charge from the jewelry website called katewinstonco.com. What she says she never saw was the fine print that explained the jewelry was not free, it was a free trial, and if she didn’t cancel within 14 days she would be billed the $98.
It didn’t stop there. Marquez was set to receive a new piece of jewelry every 30 days, and with it, a new charge of $49.
Marquez called the company to get her money back, but because she hadn’t noticed the charge to her account until the 14-day-trial period was up, the company told her a refund was out of the question. It did offer to stop additional charges and jewelry shipment.
Kiry Peng of the Consumer advocacy group Business Consumer Alliance, said this is a common issue. He says his office has more than 60 similar complaints from people in 32 states.
"(People) don’t even know they’re signing up for this program, which is deceptive in and of itself," Peng said.
The complaints are similar, but the company names can be different. Several of the companies come back as being owned by one man, Armen Youseffian.
Youseffian declined an interview with NBC4, but he admitted some customers have been confused, and said anyone who wanted a refund could call customer support at his company at 855-213-5987.
Youseffian also said he is not accepting new customers until the matter is cleared up, but when NBC4 called Kate Winston Jewelry, an operator said it was still possible to go online and place an order.
Consumer advocates warn anyone online to take nothing for granted, and make sure they read any and all fine print before placing orders. They also urge people to check with reputed Consumer groups like the BCA or the Better Business Bureau before supplying any personal information.
Marquez wound up getting most of her money back, when Bank of America refunded her $98. She was still on the hook for overdraft fees.
"(The jewelry) sits in the drawer that I open every morning getting ready for work, and every time I see it, it just makes me angry," Marquez said.
To learn more about online shopping safety, visit businessconsumeralliance.org.
To see the BCA review go to Katewinstonco.com.
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