Rip-off with a subscription trap
I think we can all agree that the internet makes a lot of things so much easier. But, as we all know, it also brings some risks and a big variety of dangers. Especially regarding private data and money. Besides viruses, phishing and spam emails, which can be devastating to your privacy, subscription traps are also something to look out for. Dating websites come at a particularly high risk of subscription rip-offs.
In the following article we will tell you how the operators of such platforms conceal the scam and what consequences are to be expected. We will also explain the role of debt collection companies and lawyers that work together with the rip-off companies. As well, we will also let you know what warning signs to spot to prevent a subscription rip-off before it takes place.
Thousands of people get trapped
First there is the justified question of how this kind of rip-off started. And of course there is the fundamental question of why thousands of people in the US get trapped in a subscription rip-off every day. One of the biggest reasons this happens is that this might be the first time for someone to use an online service or an online dating platform. There is a first time for everything, and doing something for the first time can be quite risky if you don’t know who to trust or what you’re looking for. It might seem that a high number of members is a sign of a good and secure platform. But, this is not always true.
A scam website will try to attract customers with a free offer
Fake ratings and reviews are a well-known thing on the internet. Many apps, services, and websites offer their users a bonus like extra points if they leave a positive review and a five-star rating. Often dating websites advertise with the guarantee that all profiles are checked by hand or that the platform is well-known from TV and radio stations. Only a small percentage of visitors take the effort to check the details. Most of the people do not even scroll down to the bottom of the websites or read the terms and conditions to find out if this information is false.
In general a scam website will try to attract customers with a free offer. One thing that works most of the time is the advertisement that the member’s area is full of young, female users. Costs, fees, or subscriptions are not mentioned on the landing page and the transparency is false. Another method these rip-off dating platforms use is to disguise their offers with very long terms and conditions which are hidden and hard to read. They can be difficult to read if the letters are dark and on a dark background. In other cases the terms and conditions can be displayed as an image. That makes it impossible for visitors to search for certain keywords. Important keywords to check for are costs, subscriptions in regards to fake profiles, fictitious person, or moderated chat.
The scammers are one step ahead
Many people fall for the trap of easy registration make the mistake of creating a profile. Additionally, the companies of these subscription rip-off platforms guarantee that the registration is free of charge just for the creation of a profile plus, along with free basic membership. Usually, it doesn’t take long to enter all the needed data and to confirm the e-mail address. If you are at this point the trap has not yet been fully closed yet but there is not much time left. After the completed registration many customers are tempted to make a subscription.
Here we come back to our first question of this article. Are there so many careless internet users online or are the tricks of the scammer just that convincing? The second answer is true. Many people fall for the scam because as a new user they quickly receive a lot of messages which they can’t read. The profile pictures of other members are blurred and messages cannot be sent. For that and other necessary functions of online dating the user needs a premium membership. But the costs of that are very high so many people hesitate. But the scammers are one step ahead.
The new user gets the offer of a cheaper membership with a shorter duration and lower costs as the normal membership is not as attractive. So the platforms offer a trial subscription, usually for a dollar or less. That offer sounds very tempting of course. Many users are dazzled and have the thought in their mind that nothing can go wrong. So they take their chance and buy a membership for usually two weeks. At this point the subscription trap snaps shut.
Trial subscription will extend to a subscription for many months
The trial subscription for the premium membership is the usual trap of a rip-off website. It usually runs for only 14 days which seems like a good period of time to check out the website and its members but 14 days is also the period of time for the termination. Accordingly, the customer has to cancel the trial subscription immediately after accepting the offer. However, this only works for a few cases, as the time for termination must normally be sent to the company as a letter by mail.
What makes that even harder is that the operators of such scam websites are often not based in US, but in the Netherlands or Switzerland. Even if the cancellation arrives in time the letters are often not accepted without any reason or are simply ignored. Although the operators point out on the landing page of their dating portals and in the terms and conditions that the customer can cancel his subscription at any time. Well said, but it is not that simple and it is a lie.
As the time for termination won’t be made the trial subscription will extend to a subscription for many months, which is billed monthly. Additionally, the monthly costs are between $30 and $50 or more. If the customer does not pay the fees for the subscription, collections reminders and similar letters will arrive in the mail. They come from debt collection agencies and even lawyers that work together with the scam operators.
They write countless payment reminders
Debt collection is a collection of due claims which also can be made by big debt collection companies. Nevertheless, there is a large number of dubious lawyers and debt collection agencies that will take over the collection of money for the rip-off companies. They write countless payment reminders to the customer. With every letter the costs are increasing plus they will always mention the threat of further legal action.
Usually, it is the lack of knowledge about the legal system that entices the user to pay. As the lawyers claim higher and higher costs, the customer fears that the costs will continue to rise which leads to the point that the victim will pay after all. This is probably due to the fact that there is a letter from a lawyer in the mail. These companies create the impression they have the law behind them and convince the customer of this.
But the truth is that the companies operating the scam dating websites, the debt collection companies, and lawyers also operate in a gray area of the law. If you receive payment reminders you should first hesitate to pay and contact a legal aide or lawyer. In most cases the lawyers will get tired after a while as they are not acting on a legal basis, and they will move on to another person to scam where they might get the money faster and easier.