The World Wide Web makes many things much easier. But as we know, it can also bring some risks, especially when it comes to private data and money. We already know that viruses, phishing and spam mails can create huge damage to your device and to your wallet. But subscription traps are a danger in general. Dating websites in particular may come with a high risk of a subscription rip-off.
Read on to find out how the operators such platforms conceal a scam and what consequences to expect. We’ll also explain the role of debt collection companies and lawyers that may work together with these dodgy operators. We’ll let you know what warning signs to spot to prevent a subscription rip off before it takes place.
Thousands of people in Australia get trapped in a subscription rip off
Firstly, we need to ask how the scam works and why so many people in Australia get trapped in a subscription rip-off?
People who use an online service, like a dating platform, for the first time are at greater risk. First timers often don’t know who to trust, or where to look. You may think you’ve found a reputable site, but being the internet, there’s a chance there is false information online. Some fallacies that may be true in real life, may not be the same on the Internet.
Things that may look amazing on a dating site, may be fake. A restaurant, for example, can testify to it’s quality or service with a high turnover of customers. But online, profiles and portals can be easily faked. This leads customers to the wrong conclusion that a high number of members is a clear quality seal for a good and secure platform.
Read the terms and conditions
Fake ratings and experiences have become a tiresome thing on the internet. Many apps, services and websites offer their users a bonus, like extra points for example, if they leave a positive review or a five star rating on a comparison portal. Dating websites often advertise a guarantee that all profiles are checked and you may fall for this. Only a small percentage of visitors to a website take the effort to check the small details. Most people don’t can’t be bothered to scroll down to the bottom and read the finer print or terms and conditions. But we recommend that you always do this on every site, but especially on dating sites.
In general a scam website will try to attract customers with a free offer. One thing that works often is advertising a member’s area full of young, cute females. Costs, fees or subscriptions are not mentioned on the landing page and the transparency is leaking. Another way that scam dating sites mislead people is by having very long terms and conditions which are very hard to read. They can be difficult to read if the background is dark and the colour of the letters too. In other cases the terms and conditions may be displayed as an image. This makes it impossible for visitors to search for certain keywords. Important keywords to check for are: costs, subscriptions, fake profiles, fictitious person or a moderated chat.
Scammers are one step ahead
Many people fall for the positive arguments of a dating site and will register with them or create a profile. Operators of a platform that is out to rip you off may guarantee free registration and free basic membership, if you create a profile. It doesn’t take long to enter your details and to confirm your e-mail address. If you’re already at this point, the trap hasn’t fully closed yet, but it’s close. After registering and creating a profile, many customers are tempted to take up a subscription.
And so we come back to the first question of this article. Are online users careless or are the tricks of the scammer just that convincing? The latter is true. As a new user, you quickly get so many messages, that it’s tempting to fall for the scam. The profile pictures of other members are blurred and messages can’t be sent. To be able to do this, the user needs a premium membership. The costs of this are pretty high, so many people hesitate. But the scammers are one step ahead.
The new user gets offered a cheaper membership with a shorter duration and lower costs than normal. The platforms offer a trial subscription, usually for a dollar or less. This sounds like a tempting offer, of course. Many users are dazzled by this and think nothing can go wrong. So they try their luck and buy a membership, usually for about two weeks. At this point the subscription trap snaps shut.
The trial subscription will extend to a subscription for many months
A trial subscription for the premium membership is the usual trap of a rip off website. It usually runs for just 14 days. This seems like a good period of time to check out the website and its members. However, 14 days is also the notice period you need to give to terminate your subscription. Which means the customer has to cancel the trial subscription immediately after signing on. However, this only works for a few cases, as the pink slip for termination must usually be sent in writing by post.
What makes it more difficult is that the operators of such scam websites are often not based in Australia, but in the Netherlands or Switzerland. Even if your letter of cancellation arrives in time , they’re often not accepted or simply ignored. Even though dating website operators say that the subscription can be cancelled at any time on their websites and terms and conditions, it’s not actually that simple.
It’s likely that you may not be able to cancel the subscription in the given time, and if so, the trial subscription will continue for many months, and you will be charged each month. This can be between $30 and $50 a month. If you don’t pay your monthly subscription, you may start getting reminders and even collections notices in the mail. These come from debt collection agencies and sometimes even lawyers that work together with the scam operators.
With every letter the costs are increase
Debt collection is a collection of due claims which can be made by serious debt collectors. However, there are still a large number of dubious lawyers and debt collection agencies that will take over the collection of money for scam companies. They write countless payment reminders to the customer. The costs increase with each letter, plus they’ll always mention the threat of further legal action.
Usually, it is the lack of knowledge of the legal system that results in the user paying. The lawyers and debt collectors will claim higher and higher costs and the customers will naturally fear these costs will continue to rise. Which leads to the victim paying up. This can seem very official as it arrives in the mail, from a law firm. This convinces the customer that they’re on the wrong side of the law.
The truth is that the scam dating site operators, debt collection agencies and lawyers may also operate in a grey area of the law. If you do receive a payment reminder, have a look into it first with a person you trust. In most cases lawyers may tire after a while as they’re not acting on a legal basis, and may move on to another victim.