Smart but scammed

Sometimes even good sense isn’t enough to save you

Kelli Guerriero is the event producer and executive assistant to SN&R president & CEO Jeff vonKaenel.

I’ve never been called gullible or naive, but did I bend over for an Internet scam—and paid for it. The commercials for the free Xbox were on the radio a lot. Their marketing paid off, because those commercials actually got me to visit the site.

Wary immediately, I noticed the flashy ads and testimonials from Xbox recipients. Couldn’t miss ’em; they were everywhere. The deal seemed simple: If you participated in 10 offers or sponsored programs, you got the free Xbox. There were some pretty good deals from Netflix and Columbia Warehouse, but also some pretty ridiculous ones, obvious schemes to get your money.

I was hoping to avoid using my credit card number at all costs. More than 50 offers later, I knew that wasn’t an option. Every time I clicked on an offer and it asked for money, I went to the terms and conditions screen to find the catch. Aside from Netflix and a tooth whitener offer for $3.95, all of them had one.

I signed up for Netflix and White Overnight, participated in eight more offers, then realized the site was a trap. I’d met the obligation but couldn’t get to the page for the free Xbox, no matter what I tried.

So I gave up. I was irritated, but Netflix is a good service and tooth whitener for $3.95 (even just a sample) wasn’t going to kill me. Or so I thought.

The tooth whitener came in three days. But a week later, I saw a pending withdrawal on my account for $175 from White Overnight. I called the number listed online. No answer. There wasn’t even an answering-machine message, just a beep.

I left a very stern message. The next day, a young woman called back. She explained that the $3.95 was the sample price, and that I had also agreed to my first month’s shipment when I asked for the sample. The hell I did!

If I could have climbed through the phone and put my foot up her ass, I would have. Instead, I saved my anger for her manager, who called me back a few days later. I told her that the terms and conditions on the promotional site’s page did not include the order for a month’s supply. She agreed rather quickly to reverse the charges, and I had my money back. Phew.

A year later, a collection agency called. They said I owed $175 to White Overnight. After much fuss, I was told that I’d need to prove that the company had canceled the charges in order for them to kill the collections attempt. If I couldn’t prove it, I’d have to pay, or my credit would suffer.

I must have been smoking crack last April, because the pending transaction I had seen on my account from White Overnight was nowhere to be found—other than the $3.95 charge that I had approved.

I had no proof.

I sucked it up and settled. I shelled out $140 and never got either the Xbox or the month’s supply of tooth whitener. What really sucked was that had the collections call come two months later, I’d have received great advice from another victim, who posted very informational complaint on that would have saved me the $140.

Lesson learned; now to pass it on. When you’re buying something over the Internet, no matter how careful you think you are, you’re probably not being careful enough.