The Wisconsin State Journal SOS columnEventually, many correspondents to SOS get around to this statement: "I am not crazy."
By: By George Hesselberg, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
Eventually, many correspondents to SOS get around to this statement: "I am not crazy."
For Bill Pederson, of Mauston, it only took two emails before he wrote it, and he followed it with another familiar phrase: "These folks are crooks."
Pederson had discovered two things: Being retired gives him more time for reading. And if that reading is of his credit card bill, he is being swindled on a fairly regular basis.
SOS has not saved him a nickel, yet. But Pederson turns out to be a model consumer, at least after he started reading his MasterCard bill in November and found a $19.60 charge for "Satellite Assurance" of Pompano Beach, Fla. He had no idea what it was for.
He went back several bills and found that he and his wife, Lorna, were being charged $19.60 every three months since 2008 for "protection."
He did everything right after that: called the credit card company, called the DISH satellite company, found the company on the Internet that charged that amount for service, called them, no answer, called DISH again, explained the service, asked if he needed it, was told absolutely not.
He called the credit card company (Bank of America), told them he would not pay that charge, they said they could not stop it but would investigate.
It was when the credit card company said canceling the card would not make any difference that Pederson asked SOS to step in.
SOS traced Satellite Assurance to the Satellite Assurance Club of Florida and New York, a "product protection program" which does nothing of the sort, with a website that is a model of double-speak. Its help number was answered by a person who claimed to be in Israel, identified himself as "Raphael Fernandez," working for a company that sells vitamins for pets. (SOS tried, and couldn't make that up.)
Pederson does not recall signing up for Satellite Assurance, and suspects the swindle was initiated when he started his DISH service.
"I'm retired now and have more time to read through the billing statement," he said. "I found another one, called Reservation Rewards, that was costing me $10 a month."
Aha. Reservation Rewards was part of a large consumer lawsuit settlement a couple of years ago involving a company called WebLoyalty, which was accused of signing people up for dubious Internet shopping and travel protection (useless insurance), paid for through monthly credit card charges. The victims unwittingly signed up when they used such sites as Priceline and Fandango. Consumer Reports WebWatch investigated and found the authorization was concealed in a pop-up that required the consumer to "confirm" an email address.
SOS alerted Pederson to the Reservation Rewards settlement, and he is going to ask for his $480 back from them. He also got Bank of America to credit him $39.20 on his February bill for two past payments to Satellite Assurance.
Also in his February bill, along with the credits, came a new charge of $19.60. The Internet, it turns out, is handy for keeping a retiree busy.
(c)2012 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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