Saturday, April 18, 2009


I’ve been wondering what I could write about other than my insane hours and the cacophony of conversations that reverberate in my head for about 16 hours a day as e-mails are torpedoed my way at lightning speed and IMs clamor at me incessantly from Communicator (internal Microsoft conversations), MSN Messenger (business conversations), and G-chat and AIM (personal conversations).


I know I’ve promised not to get back into this pace, but really, what choice do I have? The work needs to be done and done quickly, I’m grateful to have a job, and Tom’s been given a lay-off notice, so it’s not a good time to complain about being overworked, is it?

So I won’t bitch about that.

But oh, do I ever have something to bitch about!


This morning when I opened my Visa account online, I noticed a charge for $21.00 for ATV magazine. ATV Magazine? That’s for people who go four-wheeling in the desert, right?

(Soooo me! Not.)

I asked around the family if anyone had ordered this magazine and Tom reminded me that he’d joked a few times that I must have a pent-up passion for ATVs since he’d seen my name on that magazine label. (I stupidly assumed that I’d been given a free subscription when I ordered Time magazine.)

I then called the phone number on my statement and I was greeted by an automated line (at a company called Magazine Customer Service, a division, I later found out, of Synapse Group Inc.) which immediately gave me the option to cancel a subscription. ‘Good enough start,"’ I thought, and pressed “2” as prompted.

The syrupy woman’s voice then asked if I was SURE I want to cancel my subscription. 1 for “yes,” 2 for “no.” I pressed “1,” at which point I was asked to consider an offer for another year of ATV magazine for just $1 after I cancel. (HUH?) All I’d have to do is call BACK and cancel that year… or I’d be charged another $21. Does this sound like an offer you can’t refuse? Press “1” for “yes",” “2” for “no.”

(Oh god, now we’re into double negatives! Um… “2”!)


At this point, for a second time I was offered an “even more amazing deal” if only I don’t cancel. Please don’t cancel! I refused that offer as well – which was no easy feat, as I believe we were into triple negatives by that time. After declining all offers, I was given a slew of options, from 1 to 9, from changing my address to exploring magazine titles.

Oh a whim (yeah, right!), I pressed “0,” hoping to be connected to a real live person. And keep in mind that “0” wasn’t given as one of my options!

Lo and behold and miracle of miracles, I was connected to a real person! I told “Steven” that I had already canceled ATV magazine by way of the company’s automated service, but I wanted to find out more. How did I come to be charged for this magazine which I’m obviously not interested in? How, where, and when was this apparent sales made? Steven proceeded to tell me that my purchase of both the ATV and the Windows Gamer Magazine subscriptions were made on February 10, 2008 by way of an automated call that, it seems, I placed!

Oh really?

Windows Gamer Magazine?! No way – not even a free trial version! There has never been a copy of that magazine in this house!


Yes, Steven insisted. I placed a call to this Magazine Customer Service company and requested subscriptions to ATV and Windows Gamer magazines and then, according to Steven, I gave an automated attendant my Visa number! That’s right – it seems that I stated my credit card number and associated information to a robot on a phone.


I asked to talk to Steven’s manager who was a very nice woman who insisted that yes, I (or someone in my household) CALLED the magazine subscription company and ordered three magazines. She even gave me the credit card number I apparently used – which was a closed account.

So wait… how did my new account come to be charged, I asked. She insisted that when the old account was closed, the charge automatically goes to the new account.

“My bank authorized that?” I asked incredulously. Apparently so.


No way!

I spoke to the manager a while longer, but she could give me no additional information. I would be given a refund for both magazines and I would never be contacted by them again, so what more could she do for me, she wanted to know.

Nothing, I guess. And we hung up.

But aaarrrggghhhh! How did this happen? How were we charged for magazines we never ordered and how did Magazine Customer Service (a division of Synapse Group Inc., don't forget) get TWO of my Visa numbers?

I feel violated still, and I’m really not sure what to do about it at this point. Any suggestions?

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vailian said...

I hope you can track down how this happened-- I know that credit card lists are available for sale in the criminal underground, but something like this could provide a clue as to how they launder the money.
Keep us posted as to how your investigation is progressing...

Margaret said...

I find it TERRIFYING. I would contact my bank--or the visa division and raise heck with them over it. A similar "mystery" charge came up on our credit card--some protection plan that we hadn't authorized or put on there. We called right away and had it taken off, but weren't sure how it got on there on the first place. It made us very nervous. Keep us posted on what you find out. I think this is becoming more and more common. Ugh.

honeypiehorse said...

You should definitely talk to your bank and possibly change the account if there's any more suspicious activity. Someone with just your credit card number can easily order things like download software, where you don't need a mailing address, and the banks aren't always that vigilant. They are generally good about refunding money, however.

jennifer said...

So annoying. Consider that a lot of people don't check their credit card statements carefully, thus these sleazy predatory companies get away with scamming lots of people for charges. They're happy to credit your account back since you're probably the 1% who notices the charge and follows up. Seniors (aka the elderly) also aren't always quite sure what the charges are and don't have the perseverance to call and track them down. I'm guessing if one magazine has your CC number, they all do.

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