Monday, March 30, 2009

No Mood to Be Scammed, Part 3

Now I will tell you about BJM's revenge. She was the "personal business coach" assigned to me by Online Business Systems. She was so "hurt" by the tone of my e-mail I that she called me the next day to assure me that she would never "scam" anyone. I assured HER that I was not remotely interested in a work-at-home scheme.

Two months later the calls began.

"Hello, this is Joshua Wade of Consolidated Medical Services. I am following up on the interest you expressed a month or two ago in a work-at-home opportunity."

"How did you get my name?"


The next day a message was left on our answering machine. "Hi, this is Mark Anderson of Image Incentives. I'm just gettin' back to you with regards to your request for generating additional income. My number here is 1-866-580-9838." I did not return Mark's call. To his credit, Mark made no attempt to generate additional income for himself by contacting me again.

"Terry" called late the day after that. "You name has come across my desk as someone interested in making money from home. Is that correct?" So crisp and professional, with that "across my desk" business. She sounded like an executive head hunter, as long as you ignored the part about "making money at home."

"How did you get my name?"


In a day or two, I got a call from Mr. Diaz. He didn't hang up when I asked how he got my name, but he didn't really answer the question either.

There was another "across-my-desk" caller who apologized for bothering me and promised to take my name off "the list."

The last call (I can only hope) came just last week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Mood to Be Scammed, Part 2

Part 2 is about my battle with and its evil sidekick, These guys are as tenacious as fly paper.

I cancelled my memberships in HotMovieSale and SmartSavingsCenter as soon as I found their "welcoming" e-mails on December 20th. The 3-hour gap between receiving the e-mails and finding them apparently opened the Window of Opportunity for SmartSavingsCenter to bill me $9.81 for "Land Before Time," a movie I supposedly ordered.

I called HotMovieSale's customer service line. I got a barely intelligible recording suggesting that I take care of such matters on their website. Clicking on "Contact Us," I informed HotMovieSale that I had cancelled my membership and did not want "Land Before Time." I received generic "blah-blah" replies that assured me that someone would get back to me about my problem. When I received an e-mail in early January informing me that they had just shipped "Land Before Time," I was livid. I fired back angry e-mails and got taunts in return:

"You were the one who allowed an unauthorized person to use your credit card. This is not our fault. The order can't be cancelled, since it has already shipped."

I visited the website again. I lobbed a few taunts at "Kelly," a virtual sales rep who appeared in a pop-up. No matter what I typed, such as "Your so-called 'member services' stink," Kelly remained politely on message: "Can I tell you new ways you can save money on movies?" "NO!," I would thunder back, "I don't want any of your stupid movies!" Kelly: "Let me tell you how you can get five free movies just by recommending a friend."

"Land Before Time" arrived. I sent it back unopened. I know that HotMovieSale received it, because I had "Delivery Confirmation" from the post office. Nevertheless, SmartSavingsCenter, which somehow managed to get this charge transferred to my newly-issued credit card, kept billing me $9.81 for the movie. I would file a complaint with the credit union, which would promptly remove the charge. It would disappear one day, only to reappear the next.

Since I was getting nowhere with HotMovieSale, I called SmartSavingsCenter early one morning. I was pleased to hear, "You are Caller Number One. Your wait time is less than one minute."

Finally, I was getting somewhere! I could hear a phone ringing. Then, instead of a live representative, I heard, "Due to the large volume of calls that we are currently experiencing, we are unable to take your call at this time. Please call back later, or, if you prefer, leave your phone number and we will get back to you later." I knew better than to do that.

Eventually, I reached a person with a semblance of humanity at SmartSavingsCom.

"Ma'am," he kept saying, "I see that you returned the movie to us. We gave you a credit for $9.81 on February 2nd."

"But I'm talking about the new charge of $9.81 that showed up on my bill on February 27."

"Ma'am, my records show that you received a credit for $9.81 on February 2nd. No charges were made after that."

Oh, yeah? I stopped using my credit card entirely after December 20th, except for Netflix. My March statement says that I owe $27.81. Subtract the $18.01 owed Netflix and what is the remainder? You guessed it: $9.81.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No Mood to Be Scammed, Part 1

If it hadn't begun on the evening of the day Mom died, maybe I wouldn't have been so outraged. Mom died at 2 PM on Saturday, December 20th. Around 6 PM, Phil called me to the phone. A woman was congratulating me on submitting an order for a work-at-home package and advising me to get in touch with my "Personal Business Coach" immediately. I was at a complete loss. "Phil," I said "Come back here and listen to this. What's she talking about?" The woman hung up before he could get to the phone.

Around 7 PM, I received a call from my credit card company's security service, asking if I had charged any of the following to my credit card on December 19 and December 20:

2 charges for Napster, LLC ($ 1.00 each)
SecuredPayment.Com ($ 50.49)
GT Nutrition Pro West ($ 4.95)
SmartSavingsCenter.Com ($ 9.81)
GNS/Slimbody Vitamins ($ 1.00)
EWC Payments Pty Ltd ($ 49.99)

I had not. The security service said that my credit card account would be cancelled and a new account number issued. Fine with me.

Then I checked my e-mail and found the following messages:

1. Welcome to, Dec 20, 6:36 PM,

2. Confirming your order with Online Business Systems, Dec 20, 6:45 PM,

3. From SlimSeduction.Com, Dec 20, 8:14 PM
A Special Congraulations (sic) for Cynthia: You Qualified to Zap Cellulite and Boost Libido, and

4. Welcome to SmartSavingsCenter, Dec 20, 9:17 PM.

The credit card security service people told me that I could get all the unauthorized charges removed from my bill by filing a fraudulant-charges claim with my credit union within 30 days. Just to make sure, I cancelled my "memberships" in HotMovieSales and SmartSavingsCenter on line by 10 PM on December 20th. (SmartSavingsCenter is the billing agent for HotMovieSales.)

BJM, my "Personal Business Coach" from Online Business Systems advised me that the order for my "Work-at-Home Package" was already being processed and would arrive within 2 to 4 business days. I could return it in its "original condition" within 15 days and not be charged the ADDITIONAL $39.95 to cover the "full cost of the material included in your Package." YIPES! This sounded like the opening gambit in an extremely nasty game of "gotcha."

I immediately fired off a reply to BJM:

"I did not submit an order for a work-at-home package. Don't bother shipping it. I have reported this fraudulent attempt to become my "personal business coach" to my credit union's credit card security services division and have cancelled my credit card. I will contact you directly just so that you understand that no contract exists between you and me. You have inconvenienced me at a time when I am in no mood to be scammed."

On the 21st, I got an aggrieved phone call from BJM. She managed to sound both indignant and hurt.

"I just want you to know that I would never scam anyone. I am just so hurt. It was cruel of you to say that."

"Relax," I said, "I'm not coming after you. You caught me at bad time."

We hung up. But is there ever a good time to be the victim of a scam?

In Part 2, I'll tell how "Land Before Time" weasled its way into our house even after I cancelled my so-called membership in Twice.

In Part 3, I'll tell you about BJM's revenge.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

If I Were That Cat . . .

Mom--my stepmother, actually-- always claimed that she preferred animals to people. She never had a baby of her own, so her pets became her babies, the objects of constant anxious coddling.

After Sadie, her sixteen-year-old Persian, was put to sleep in January 2007, Mom declared that she would never have another cat. Who could possibly replace Sadie? After a few weeks, Mom admitted that she was lonely. We interviewed several candidates from local shelters. One gorgeous marmalade tabby ruined his chances by scratching Mom and drawing blood. Another elegant, white, eight-year-old female was declared "a cold fish." Several middle-aged Siamese were "too aggressive." Then Georgie, a pretty tuxedo, was brought to our house for a visit and immediately began exploring Mom's "apartment" as if she already owned it. We signed adoption papers within days and Georgie moved in.

Georgie was a lively 6-year-old, who amused Mom by dashing madly around the bedroom and sitting room at least once a day. She loved to chase the laser light and bat at "da bird" and stalk tiny toy mice. Best of all, she loved to sit on Mom's lap. She cuddled up with Mom for naps and slept in her bed all night.

Mom fussed over Georgie constantly. She followed her around with a plate and a spoon, always afraid that the cat wasn't getting enough to eat. Georgie weighed 10 pounds when she moved in and 14 pounds one year later. Mom monitored her diet constantly. At least once a week, she'd fret that Georgie "wasn't eating," "wasn't herself," "was probably sick, " and "maybe should go to the vet."

One day, while out on an errand, I called home. Mom was frantic. Georgie had escaped the screened porch through a hole in the screen and had been running around the backyard, "scared to death."

Was she still out there?

No, she had come right back in, but Mom was afraid she'd get out again. She wanted Phil to come home immediately and fix that hole!

I called Phil at work. He wasn't about to rush home in the middle of the day.

When he hung up, he muttered crossly to no one in particular, "If I were that cat, I'd run away too!"

A young intern sitting close to the phone nearly choked on her coffee as she stifled a laugh.