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Hotwire Scam? Print E-mail
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
Travel - Getting There
Written by the frugal nomad   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 05:54
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The first thing I did was panic. I was certain I was a victim to identity theft. Some diabolical SOB must have gotten hold of my checking account information and he had to have known I was out of town and wouldn’t be checking my monthly account statements. There were two withdrawals on my monthly statements for three months running. Which meant I was being billed $12 a month for some membership program called Shopper Discounts & Rewards and an additional $12 a month for another program called Reservation Rewards.

I immediately took the offensive and canceled my debit card even though I hate to go without it because I’m boycotting the credit card companies these days and I’d rather the merchants send the 3% to 5% cut to my Credit Union.

After I was done with the panic stage, the next thing I did was get mad. How could this happen? So I called my Credit Union to contest the charges and have them report it as fraud. But I didn’t stop there; I wanted to track down the perpetrators who committed this heinous crime. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like people dipping into my checking account. It’s a personal quirk. I’m perfectly capable of shrinking my account balance without any outside assistance.

The customer service lady at the Credit Union told me to call Shopper Discounts and Reservation Rewards. I didn’t have to look for their phone number - it was staring me right in the face on my banking statement. So, I picked up the phone and started dialing the number to the first outfit, Shopper Discounts. I was fully prepared to give them a piece of my mind and gently inform them that I was about to take up the matter with the Supreme Court. But the sweet customer service representative gave me zero resistance and I’m a sucker for polite service reps. She immediately took off the charges like she was expecting my call and knew my track record before the Supreme Court. That’s when I knew for certain that it wasn’t a case of identity theft - I was dealing with a bigger monster; and it took thirty seconds to realize the size of the monster I was confronting. When the lady at Shopper Discounts volunteered that my account also had charges from Reservations Rewards, the alarm bells went off. She was just trying to save me a second call. Both charges were from the same outfit.

So let’s review the facts. I got two unauthorized $12 monthly withdrawals from two outfits that share the same phone number, share the same database and share customer service representatives who are authorized to immediately reverse the charges from both outfits once they hear a hiccup from a consumer who threatens to take them to the Supreme Court. At his point, I didn’t just want my money back; I wanted answers for my legal brief. So I pressed the lady in my own charming way to tell me how they got my debit card information. At first she was evasive, so I asked her to put me through to their legal department. That’s when she suddenly remembered how to respond to a simple question with a simple answer. She said I must have done something while booking some hotel room or a ticket on HotWire.com. She couldn’t tell me what that ‘thing’ was. And frankly, I’m not about to try to duplicate the problem. But I’m certain those kind of ‘things’ happen all the time and they don’t only happen to your humble scribe.



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jacuzzigirl  - This happens at other websites too |2010-05-21 18:35:52
Something happened very similar with priceline.com

I don't care how clever William Shatner seems on the commercials, I won't use priceline.com again.

Long story short, in super tiny writing (and automatically checked so you blatanly won't see it) I was getting charged monthly fees for a vacation discount website. It was a pain in the ass because they gave me this "well you must have clicked yes to order this service." I was on them like flies on dog crap until they cancelled me. I also disputed the charges through my credit card company,

Beware of those automatic "click to say yes" buttons on websites to enroll in anything!
Rob Banks |2010-05-21 19:03:50
Most of these come after the sale. They show you a screen or some an email that offers money back on your next purchase. If you click anything in the mail or screen it triggers an auto-enroll in their programs. Funny thing is that they literally bill you and do absolutely nothing. Be sure to continue to check your statements, they tend to "forget" and continue to bill.
frugal nomad  - So it's not just hotwire |2010-05-22 13:08:11
I can't believe this is even legal - it's definitely unethical. I eventually got my money back but they shouldn't have taken it in the first place. And how many people don't pay attention to their cards or postpone getting around to it or cancel it without asking for a refund of previous charges. You talk about a racket.

Thanks for giving us the scoop on priceline.com
frugal nomad  - just to follow up |2010-05-22 13:40:17
I found it interesting what you said about the fact that they "do absolutely nothing." That was also my experience. So what are they billing for?
 
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