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Duped on the Internet

Dear Editor:

Did you know that Internet services can charge your credit card even after you cancel your credit card and get a new number? Well, I didn’t, and I’m guessing it’s news to everyone else, too.

I just found out today not only that a super-secret list of merchants like Yahoo Mail and Norton Antivirus have conned the public into accidentally committing to “auto-renew” because they fail to check the secret “opt out” box but that permission is not applied just to the current credit card but to any replacement credit card you get, whether it’s to update the expiration date or a totally new card number altogether! They are in cahoots with the credit-card company to bypass all the normal safeguards of expiring credit cards and changing card numbers.



So I had been duped into paying for 10 years of a Yahoo Mail service that I don’t even have. I volunteered my card once 10 years ago to cover what I thought was a one-time charge to update someone’s mail service in order to demonstrate that it could, with a paid account, work in Outlook. I never saw an auto-renew small print, and since it’s not my account, I couldn’t go and turn it off the next year when the next charge came through.

I figured since my card was expiring, that would knock off the charge on the next round. Before I knew it, 10 years went by, and it was only coincidence that my card, freshly defrauded last month, was brand-new, with only four charges on it, one being the absolutely unauthorized Yahoo Mail charge. Since there is no way they could have the new number, I called the credit-card company to report the charge and learned of this “auto-update” feature.



You’d think for such an audacious security bypass, I’d have to fill out and sign a special authorization, agreeing to their special status, but no – it was so subtle and secret, even a professional like me didn’t see it.

Nobody I know is aware of this practice despite being college-educated, savvy computer users. If there is some small print on a website that suggests that we are authorizing charges in perpetuity, nobody is aware of it.

I’d like to know who these super-secret merchants are and how they get the special bypass ability, and if it’s as great of a “service” as the credit-card company tried to tell me it was, then why don’t I get to choose that option for my real bona fide vendors, like the gas company, the trash-pickup service or even favorite trusted vendors such as Amazon.com?

The credit-card company, Citi Cards, has since taken me off this “auto-update” list, so I’m not likely to get hit again, but I’ll bet there are thousands of people in the same situation, confused and bewildered, who would like to know this secret fraud club exists.

Rebecca Driscoll

Aspen


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