On February 18th, 2009, one of my business colleagues visited the Grant Writing Express website. This website was found with a simple search on Google for grants and government financial programs for small businesses.
The “Grant Writing Express” website offered a DVD, with information about how to write grants and who to submit grant proposals to. This was apparently a bargain at $3.95 and a free pass to the Grant Help Center website. Well, come to find out, the free pass was actually a 14 Day free trial, after which they charged your credit card a monthly fee. Also, not included in the information about your purchase, you were automatically subscribed to another “FREE” website, GrantHelpOrder which also charges your credit card $29.99 a month after your free 14 day pass.
On February 23rd, 2009 this same colleague called Grant Writing Express to cancel the 14 day trial membership to their websites. We were sent a confirmation email that same day, confirming that the subscription had been canceled and that the company credit card would not be billed. Up to this point it seemed that Grant Writing Express was a legitimate company with a great customer service department. WRONG!
On May 15th the company credit card was charged $29.99 from a company called My Fitness. The charge listed an 800 number so we called it. The automated system on the other end thanked us for calling Quick Income. Of course you are put on hold for a while. When you finally get to speak to someone, they play stupid. (Definitely have to be stupid if they think they are going to pull one over on me!)
I asked why the charge on the credit card was listed by My Fitness, yet the business answering the phone was Quick Income. They told me that My Fitness owned Quick Income. I asked what the charge was for and was told it was a subscription to a help site for grants. I asked what the site was and was told it was called Grant Help Order.com and was informed that with my purchase contract for Grant Writing Express’s DVD, we were automatically enrolled in their program as well.
The “I really don’t care” quality customer service rep, on the phone told me that the terms were clearly stated and there was nothing he could do. I demanded a refund and cancellation. He told me he would see what he could do. I told him that their product was not mentioned on the purchase agreement and he denied it. Finally he said he could cancel the membership, but that the first month would not be credited back.
Well, that simply wont do for me! I didn’t order their service. We weren’t notified of the purchase and we certainly didn’t authorize it. So I informed this person that I had red about them on Rip Off Report, Complaints Board and other sites, and that I was just a few minutes away from reporting them to the Attorney General.
Just like that, his attitude changed. All of a sudden, he was kind and helpful. He even gave me a confirmation number for the refund. He also explained that it would take up to 10 business days to see the refund on our credit card, and that he was sorry for our inconvenience (I bet he was!).
So, I’ll wait the 10 days, but that isn’t all I’m going to do. These companies operate very scrupulously, so they aren’t beyond selling your information to another company, especially if they will use your credit card to sell you a subscription you never elected to receive. Most of these types of companies scam individuals by tricking them. Well, the trick is on them. My credit card company will now block any purchases from all of the company names that I know of, and will change the credit card number associated with my account, so that it doesn’t match what this company has on file.
Moral of the story: Check and Double check your credit card statements when you purchase something online. Never, ever, do an ATF (Automatic Transfer of Funds) from your checking account to make a purchase online. Only use a credit card who guarantees protection against online purchases. Or use an online payment company like PayPal.
PayPal can provide a temporary credit card number, which is only good for a single transaction, or they can provide you with a PayPal Debit Mastercard.
Lastly, stay away from:
- Grant Writing Express
- Grant Help Center
- GrantHelpOrder, and…
- My Fitness, which doesn’t go anywhere now!