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Monitoring Grey Charges Can Save You Hundreds

I use Grammarly’s online english grammar check because Grammarly watches writers backs like a bodyguard.

Anyway…..

Grey charges—deceptive and unwanted credit and debit card charges that occur as a result of misleading sales and billing practices—total more than US$14 billion per year among US debit and credit cardholders.

The prevalence of grey charges among a randomly selected surveyed set of BillGuard customers found 35% were hit with at least one grey charge in 2012, averaging approximately $215. A year’s worth of data from BillGuard reveals interesting patterns in the prevalence of grey charges over time.

For example, the study showed that 3 in 1,000 debit and credit card charges are grey charges. Among those with at least one grey charge, 24% had 3–5 grey charges, nearly 1 in 10 had 6–10 grey charges, and 10% were hit with 11 or more grey charges in 2012.

Monitoring grey charges can save cardholders millions of dollars.

The data reveals that using the BillGuard service helped cardholders significantly reduce the occurrence of grey charges. BillGuard customers saved, on average, almost US$81 from monitoring and eliminating grey charges. Had grey charges gone unchecked and remained at the Q1 level, BillGuard customers would have been hit with $165 in grey charges per customer. The Aite Group estimates that debit and credit cardholders could save nearly US$7 billion (of the roughly US$14.3 billion in total grey charges) by monitoring and tracking grey charges.

Consumers can fight back by finding and resolving grey charges with the new BillGuard iPhone app. The free app intelligently prioritizes noteworthy, recent, and recurring charges across all of a cardholder’s credit and debit cards. The app uses crowdsourced analytics from BillGuard’s national Transaction Intelligence Network™ to help users quickly spot and recognize charges deemed questionable by other cardholders on their cards. As users archive verified charges and trusted merchants with a single swipe of the finger, BillGuard gets smarter, customizing their priority list with only the charges they want to review.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailadress -to 411247.

11 Types of Grey Charges

Grey charges: “Deceptive and unwanted credit and debit card charges that occur as a result of misleading sales and billing practices.” Technically, grey charges aren’t considered fraud because the legalese spells it all out, and trusting consumers sign on the dotted line. Merchants know levying grey charges is legal, but they also know it’s unethical, and they don’t seem to care.

Free-to-Paid. Consumer receives goods free for a trial period. After the trial period, the seller automatically charges a fee unless the consumer affirmatively cancels or returns the goods or services within the obscure return period.

Phantom. Consumer completes a primary transaction and receives an additional product from the seller or a third party that is distinct from the party offering the initial product.

Service and Luxury Fees. Charges paid to acquire luxury items and for the privilege of having a bank account, special card, processing a special request, etc.

Zombie. A subscription or membership that doesn’t end even after it has been canceled.

Unintended Subscription. Consumer completes a one-time transaction that turns into an unwanted and ongoing subscription.

Misleading Advertising. Occurs when a consumer is presented with an advertisement containing false promises, unsubstantiated claims, incomplete descriptions, false testimonials or comparisons, partial disclosures, visual distortion of the product being purchased, or qualifications presented in small-print.

Membership. Consumer joins a discount club. In exchange, the consumer agrees to receive merchandise periodically unless the club is notified not to send it. If the consumer takes no action on time, the seller charges the consumer and sends the goods.

Unwanted Auto-renewal. Consumer enters into an annual agreement to purchase goods or services. If the consumer does not cancel the arrangement prior to the cancellation deadline, the seller automatically renews the subscription for another term and bills the consumer the requisite fee without formal notice.

Unintended Purchase. Misleading information during a sign-up process leads to an unintended purchase.

Hidden Fee. Extra charges that were either non-disclosed or deceptively disclosed that were added to the price originally agreed to by the consumer.

Other. Includes charges that the consumer finds deceptive. However, they aren’t considered fraudulent and don’t clearly fall into one of the other categories.

Don’t get taken! Here’s how to outwit the grey chargers:

  • Scrutinize your statements carefully,
  • Demand refunds when grey charges occur,
  • Threaten a “chargeback”, which is a transaction in which a bank pulls money back out of a merchant’s account, and
  • Get BillGuard to do all the worrying for you—and get back your peace of mind.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailadress -to 411247.

Card Issuers Losing $562 in Costs to Grey Charges

Hey merchants, yes you, BillGuard released a report that examined the grey charge problem among US debit and credit cardholders and the service costs impacting card issuers and retailers. The report revealed 11 types of deceptive ‘grey charges’ that retailers use to mislead consumers in their sales and billing practices.

Yaron Samid, founder and CEO of BillGuard stated, “Merchants profit greatly, at the expense of cardholders, when we don’t check our bills. Capitalism drives revenue optimizations and churn reduction techniques, but improper disclosure of sales and billing terms crosses a red line of ethics.”

However, while merchants seem to be profiting, they also have to waste time and money on customer service issues when handling irate callers who are duped. Looking at the entire payments ecosystem, grey charges also impact card-issuing banks, which lose millions of dollars in operating costs servicing grey charge-related calls, as well as merchants, who are crippled by fees, chargebacks, and lost business from disgruntled consumers.

To handle billing inquiries and disputes, BillGuard completely bypasses the costly and inefficient chargeback networks to connect cardholders directly to merchants for free, expedited resolution. Card issuers can and should take a number of steps to protect their cardholders. This will reduce their own servicing costs by:

  • Proactively flagging and alerting cardholders to potential grey charges.
  • Providing cardholders with merchant ratings related to grey charges.
  • Creating a mechanism for cardholders to contact merchants directly to resolve billing disputes and inquiries; this mutually benefits the merchant, allowing them to stay in control of their customer experience.

Reductions in servicing costs are not the only benefit card issuers stand to gain from implementing these recommendations. Improved customer experience and customer loyalty would directly result from helping cardholders protect themselves against grey charges. Credit card providers could stand to increase revenue by $866 million annually just by improving the customer experience. This increased revenue would emerge through a combination of additional purchases, a reduction in customer attrition, and new customers gained through word-of-mouth recommendations.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailadress -to 411247.

Consumers Hit With $14 Billion in Unwanted Card Charges

A new report by BillGuard examines the problems credit and debit cardholders are having with grey charges. Every year, millions of American consumers are forced or misled into paying fees and charges they never wanted or intended to pay. These charges, called ‘grey charges’, are typically small in nature, buried in terms of service agreements, and are written in a way that often confuses the average consumer.

The report discusses all 11 kinds of deceptive grey charges, including ‘free to paid’. The worst of the grey charges, it equates to approximately 115 million transactions, resulting in $6 billion in losses to consumers. An example of a free to paid grey charge is when a retailer offers a product for free during a trial period with a product return policy that is often misleading with obscure shipping dates, ultimately resulting in a charge the consumer didn’t want.

The problem with grey charges stems from the fact that they aren’t illegal. As a result, the existing laws on the books can’t stop them. Therefore, consumers must take control over their finances and card charges by exploring other opportunities and options.

The best option available is the BillGuard’s iPhone app. The free app intelligently prioritizes noteworthy, recent, and recurring charges across all of a cardholder’s credit and debit cards. The app uses crowdsourced analytics from BillGuard’s national Transaction Intelligence Network™ to help users quickly spot and recognize charges deemed questionable by other cardholders on their cards.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailadress -to 411247.

How NOT to Dispute a Credit Card Charge

My wife was searching online for a specialist to take care of a minor medical condition. While browsing, a certain ad caught her eye, so she checked out its website and made a phone call to get more information.

The receptionist was warm and friendly and gave her all kinds of advice and direction over the phone. Toward the end of the call, the receptionist recommended my wife come into the office to sit down with the doctor to discuss her options to take care of her issues. Great. The appointment was made and the doctor’s office called a few days before to confirm.

So my wife went to the appointment, had a consult and learned her options…options that basically equated to a sales consultation of all the different procedures this doctor would perform for several thousands of dollars.

At the conclusion of the appointment on the way out the receptionist said, “That will be $125.00 please.” This was a little surprising to my wife because in the two phone calls she had with the doctor’s office, there was no mention of a fee—and when she arrived, there was no mention of a fee or signage stating a fee. My wife had also filled out a tremendous amount of paperwork when she got to the office and at no point in the documentation was there any mention of a fee.

She figured that when she’s going to an appointment to be sold on several thousands of dollars in procedures, there wouldn’t be a charge—after all, you’d be paying to be sold something! Imagine if you test drove a car at a dealership and when you were done the dealer said,“OK, $125.00 please.”

When my wife hesitated to pay and questioned the fee, the receptionist and then the doctor began to belittle and degrade her, saying things like, “What would make you think this is free?” and “Do you not think the doctor’s time is worth anything?” And so on. Feeling overwhelmed, she gave them her credit card. Then she called me from the office.

When I got on the phone and questioned the billing manager, she pulled the same negative tactics on me as she did my wife. This, of course, got my Italian blood boiling as I began to tell her all the ways I was going to expose the doctor’s shady practices on social media and how I was going to write a blog post a day with the doctor’s name in it until all Google’s search bots would see was his name associated with my scathing blogs on the first 10 pages of search.

The billing manager apologized and immediately credited my wife’s card.

Honestly, that’s not how I like to do things. And it shouldn’t be how you do things either. Reduce your aggravation by trying these things first.

#1: Always check the fine print before you make any decisions. Ask the right questions and make sure there are no unwanted charges ahead.

#2: Know what you are buying. Whenever you cough up a credit card number to any retailer, whether in person, online or over the phone, make sure you are getting what you are paying for—nothing more,nothing less.

#3: Be aware of “grey charges.” Sleazy, scheming merchants tack on unwanted subscriptions or recurring charges capitalizing on the fact that we don’t pay attention to the fine print and often do not pay much attention to our statements.

#4: Sign up for BillGuard to watch your statements. It’s free, easy and effective.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

The Top 6 Sources of Grey Charges

Those out-of-the-blue credit card charges that sneak up on us and require our time, attention, persistence and aggravation to squelch are called grey charges. Thanks to these insidious leaks, millions of people lose billions of dollars.

Sleazy, scheming merchants have perfected the art of the grey charge by capitalizing on the fact that we don’t payattention to the fine print and often do not pay much attention to our statements, either. But by being aware of these scammy sales techniques, you can prevent getting caught up in a vicious circle of grey charges.

Here are the top six sources of grey charges:

#1 Unknown subscriptions. In the process of checking outduring an online transaction, you might check or uncheck a box in regard to an offer or discount. Either way, a few months later you start getting all these charges for services you never wanted or ordered.

#2 Zombie subscriptions. After you recognize a grey charge for an unknown subscription, you might get the charge removed—only to find out months later it’s back from the dead and you’re being charged again.

#3 Auto-renewals. When signing up for a service that bills you monthly, quarterly or annually, a forthright retailer will let you know when your renewal date is coming and will inform you of upcoming charges. But shady companies don’t say a word and re-charge you without notification, sticking you with the bill even after you complain—all because you were “too late.”

#4 Negative-option marketing. When buying a product, you ultimately buy a suite of services you never wanted.

#5 Free to paid. When getting something “for free”and you have to cough up your credit card, there is always a catch. That catch is usually in the form of ongoing charges that are difficult to remove.

#6 Cost creep. The initial purchase price might have been $9.99 for the first three months, but then it becomes $19.99 a month thereafter. Then the merchant tacks on an annual $99.99 membership fee.Then you want to crawl through the phone and choke someone.

Stay out of trouble by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Pay attention. Nothing is free.
  • Monitor your purchases. Know what you’re getting into.
  • Check statements biweekly. Look for grey charges
  • Sign up for BillGuard to watch your statements. It’s free, easy and effective.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

Grey Charges Are Upsetting—and Legal

Disclosure notices on websites, advertisements and in the terms of an agreement when making a product purchase are often complicated and confusing. Companies know this and take advantage of consumers, figuring potential purchasers don’t have the time, inclination or knowledge of the legalese that goes along with the fine print. Embedded deeply in the disclosure is the exact nature of credit card charges—and really, has anyone ever read that? My best guestimate is that 95 percent of the population hasn’t, which is why 95 percent of unwanted credit card charges are considered “grey charges.”

Because the legalese spells it all out (and trusting consumers sign on the dotted line),grey charges are not illegal—which by default makes them legal. However you slice it, I’m sure we can all agree that grey charges are upsetting, sleazy, sneaky and deceptive. More than once I’ve yelled and screamed at a customer service representative who gave me a million reasons under the sun as to why I wasn’t entitled to a reversed charge on my credit card. Grey charges cost more than time and money; they also cost users personally through the very expensive commodity of emotional bandwidth.

Companies exercising their grey charge rights (however wrong they may seem to the rest of us) are well-known legal entities that many of us do business with every day. They make billions of dollars confusing and deceiving customers into paying, and consumers are mostly uninformed—until now.

Companies engaged in this behavior know levying grey charges is legal, but unethical. But when they are making so much money, they aren’t about to stop. Consumers are ultimately responsible for checking their credit card statements and looking for grey charges. But according to BillGuard, few credit card holders—1 in 10—rarely, if ever, look at their statements.

Don’t get taken! Here’s how to outwit the grey chargers:

  • Scrutinize your statements carefully
  • Demand refunds when grey charges occur
  • Threaten a “chargeback,” which is a transaction in which a bank pulls money back out of a merchant’s account
  • Get BillGuard to do all the worrying for you—and get back your peace of mind

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

The Devil is in the Details

In unwanted credit card charges, the details are the fine print—and the fine print often results in devilish “grey charges.”Grey charges are those credit card charges that appear on your statement from out of the blue, charging us small or large fees—or sometimes a single charge—monthly or annually.

The fine print can sometimes be expensive. And with unwanted credit cards, charges happen when we think we are paying attention or a sleight-of-hand action by a scammy retailer hooks us.

Boldface lies.The fine print may begin with lies. A website might look professionally done, complete with a believable story based on a plausible scenario andphotos representing real people with genuine-sounding comments. But in reality, it’s smoke and mirrors meant to deceive you.

Bogus trial periods.Trial periods with 30-day money-back guarantees are often rife with lies ending in grey charges. The fine print might read, “Delivery time is subtracted from your trial period”—in other words, if the package takes two weeks to get to you, you only have two weeks to try the product. But the clock starts ticking from the moment the package leaves the facility. After thinking you have 30 days from the delivery date, you decide to return the unwanted item—and you learn too late that you are out of time and out of luck.

Twice-bought scams. You buy a product in January, and when you receive it the product is damaged or of poor quality, so you immediately return it and get your money back. Then six months goes by and you see the same ad. You still want the product and figure you’ll give the company a second try; perhapsthey’ll have their act together by now. But when you get the product a second time, it’s just as bad as the first—and in the fine print it says, “We do not honor refunds to customers who have purchased the same product in the past.”

Free trials. Like Mom said, “There is no free lunch” and “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” This applies to free trial periods as well. Often, the upfront cost of the item is just a few dollars. You make the purchase,and the free trial begins the same day you purchased the product—not when you receive it—so themerchant weaves in the bogus trial period. Then, after the free trial period expires, you learn the actual cost of the item might be 10 to 20 times the initial charge.

Outwit the devil by paying attention to the details:

  • Pay attention to the fine print, as hard as that may be
  • Ask as many questions as you need to before laying down your credit card number
  • Use a credit card and not a debit card
  • Watch your statements closely
  • Get BillGuard to watch the grey charges for you

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

Avoid Unwanted Credit Card Charges

I think it’s safe to say that all credit card charges are unwanted, but today I’m talking about so-called “grey charges”—those out-of-the-blue credit card charges that sneak up on us and require our time, attention, persistence and aggravation to get rid of. A study by BillGuard shows the average dollar amount lost by grey charges is around $356.00per consumer annually.

Studies show 1 in 4 people to be victims of grey charges, and because 9 out of 10 people don’t even check their billing statements or only skim them lookingfor large purchases, those grey charges end up eclipsing fraud—as much as 95 percent grey charges to only 5 percent actual fraud!

While fraud certainly is and will always be a hot-button topic that has consumers scrambling to protect their credit cards (which, in reality, can’t completely be protected; all you can do is pay attention to your statements), grey charges have been absent on consumers’ radars in part because the companies that profit from these charges don’t want you to know about them. Fraud consists of 1 percent goods and services not delivered, 1 percent unauthorized charges and 3 percent “other” fraud, which often consists of hacking or unauthorized charges that occur after you hand your card over to a clerk.

Grey charges occur because 1 percent are billing errors, 2 percent are overcharges, 2 percent are duplicate charges, 4 percent are forgotten charges, 5 percent are hidden fees, 34 percent are just totally unrecognizable charges out of nowhere and a whopping 47 percent are unwanted subscriptions such as recurring memberships, “zombie” subscriptions, unwanted auto-renewals, negative option marketing, and “free to paid” offers.

Here’s how to reduce your risk of grey charges and fraud:

  • Always reconcile your bills diligently and on a timely basis
  • Refute unauthorized charges immediately—within one to two billing cycles
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards offer more consumer protection
  • Use BillGuard to watch your back and protect you from grey charges

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.