I’m writing this hoping other people will come forward with similar stories. (Don’t forget to read the important updates at the end of this post. Additionally, I’ve written out a strategy that will likely help track these scammers down faster.) On 9/16/2014, Josh, a former agent at the “customer service company” at the center of this scam responded.
Yesterday, 8/13/2014, I logged in and checked my credit card statement like I do routinely. I noticed an odd authorization for $49.95 from 888-368-0967.com. This was suspicious because I did not recently buy anything for $49.95 and had never heard of that company.
Visiting the site did not help either. It appears to be a third party site that provides the customer service and, apparently, billing for other websites online.
So I called the number and ended up speaking to two different customer service representatives, who were both very friendly. After explaining the charge appearing out of nowhere on my credit card I was asked to provide a few digits from my credit card number. I did that and my name was verified by them. Kind of weird that my real name was associated with that number in their database but whatever.
I was told that yes, a $49.95 charge was placed on that card on 8/10/2014. (It must have taken a few days to transfer over to my credit card company.) They told me that the Raspberry Ketone Strength vitamins would be arriving shortly.
Woah! Hold on there. Raspberry ketones? I even had to have the rep spell it out for me because he had a slight accent and that’s something you don’t hear in everyday conversation. What the heck are those? I have never even heard of them, let alone buy them!
I then asked him to give me the shipping address. I was planning on giving this information to the credit card fraud department to hopefully catch the criminal. Weirdly enough the agent proceeded to give me my own address! What craziness is this? Why would someone order these weight-loss “vitamins” in my name, using my credit card number, and then ship it to my actual address?
It doesn’t make any sense. If my card number was auto-generated and then used for this purchase, why would my real name and address be used? Wouldn’t the thief want the product shipped to his own address or at least a PO Box that he could secretly pick it up at? Seems like a lot of work just to pick up a 2-month supply of this stuff.
The first customer service representative I spoke with told me that he’d cancel the order. He offered no explanation of how or why this charge happened in the first place since “[they] are only a third-party.” I told him that regardless of canceling the order I still would be talking to my credit card company to dispute the charge.
Next, I did call my credit card company and reported what I described above. Their agent said that she saw the charge and noted that it was allowed to go through because the name and shipping address matched what they had on record for me. She said that my call was documented and that I could dispute the charge if the billing company did not cancel it themselves.
Then I realized that maybe the criminal used a different email address so that he could watch the shipment tracking and possibly intercept the package when it arrived at my door. I called the billing company back and spoke with a second customer service representative.
This new guy told me that they only had my name and address (and credit card number) on record but that there was no associated email address. Dang, there goes that theory! He then said that my product would be arriving in only a few days.
What? I thought the last guy canceled it! Turns out my auto-renewing account was canceled but that the product was still on the way! That was not what I wanted. The rep then told me that when I received the package and did not want it I could send it back with the RMA number he was about to give me. I was not going to do that. I told him that I’d be refusing the package and would dispute the charge with my credit card company regardless. I did not want to deal with an RMA number.
He then talked to his supervisor who did authorize a refund of the $49.95 charge. Supposedly that could take up to 5-10 business days. I also received a cancellation number. Seems fairly legit. I’ll closely be watching my credit card statement for that refund and will be updating this post with any new development.
Has anyone else experienced anything similar?
I’m at loss for an explanation. The Raspberry Ketone Strength website and terms and conditions isn’t helpful. There’s no contact information other than the number for the third party billing company. The only company name is listed as “Puerto Quellon LP.”
A quick Google search of that name does, in fact, bring up something similar. There’s a single recent mention of an entry on Ripoff Report describing a company trying to charge someone a monthly $49.95 to his bank card, which is directly connected to his checking account. (At least in my situation it goes through my credit card, which has better fraud/dispute resolution.)
This guy feels that the Puerto Quellon LP company must have gotten his details from his Amazon account.
I have bought a number of things recently from third party sellers (which were managed through Amazon). Everyone of them has good reviews and the products arrived correctly and in good condition.
The only thing that I can think of is that this Raspberry Ketone Strength company aka Puerto Quellon LP has fraudulently charged my credit card themselves. Not as many people go to the extreme that I have in tracking them down. Scamming the credit card companies out of a little money here and there might be their business model. Maybe the $49.95 charge is too small for the credit card companies to spend the time and money to pursue? This is all just entirely speculation, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Update (8/17/2014): Just checked my credit card statement and the billing company I called did keep their word. The $49.95 charge has been credited back to the account. I’ll be watching my credit statement even closer for the next few months because this does still seem kind of fishy.
Update (8/28/2014): I did a Google search and found another website discussing the exact same thing.
Also, an article from none other than the Cosmopolitan UK describes how people in the UK are finding it very difficult to cancel their trial of the product once they order it. There was an email address listed at the end of the article for victims to email in order to stay apprised of any potential court proceedings. I’ll post updates here if I hear back.
Update (9/2/2014): Andrew suggested that the scheme involves setting up a fake merchant account using stolen credit card information. What happens is that the relatively small charge is cleared by your bank because the name and address are correctly provided. Then, if you happen to notice the charge and call to cancel, the money is refunded. This sounds okay, but this actually allows the scam to keep going. What should be done instead is to keep the charge on the account, dispute it and get the chargeback, allowing the bank’s fraud department to track it down. Once more people do this, then the appropriate authorities will shut them down. Thanks, Andrew!
Update (9/11/2014): Thanks to everyone that has commented so far. Hopefully this blog and comments have been helpful in clarifying this scam and, if nothing else, letting other people know that they are not alone in this. In the comments Patricia has posted a good email that she is using to alert her friends. People have also been contacting various news agencies. Paul suggested contacting the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).
I’d also like to suggest a new strategy:
Many of us have actually, believe it or not, had success in calling the 888 number (the “third party” billing company) and asking for a refund. Now that I have read through the advice of commenters who deal with this kind of stuff in their professions, I think the strategy should be to not ask for a refund. As Andrew said (see 9/2/2014 update above), this only legitimizes them and allows them to keep the scam going. Instead, we should cancel the card and dispute the charge with our credit card company or bank. That way the big banks and their fraud departments will be the ones scrambling to find these scammers. As soon as we dispute the charge the $49.95 will be deposited back into our account since we have zero liability.
Update (9/16/2014): Please see the comment by Josh. He is a former employee of this “customer service company” and describes how the scam works. Very interesting and informative comment. He sounds like a great resource! Thanks for the message, Josh!