88 Big Sites Earning Millions From Webloyalty Scam

88 websites, a good number pretty big name sites, that earned millions, some in excess of $10 million, as partners in the infamous Webloyalty consumer ripoff. Pizza Hut? Say it ain’t so.

Webloyalty is that annoying thing that pops up when you buy movie tickets that says you can get $10 off your next purchase just by entering your email address. By clicking yes, you actually give permission for the website you’re on to pass your credit card information on to Webloyalty, and they start billing you $9 a month for a useless “discount buyers club” and the rebate is hardly ever paid.

The info below comes from a report Sentator Rockefeller released in advance of the hearing he’s convening today to investigate aggressive online sales tactics.

In a statement, he said, “”After six months, this Committee has found that the companies we are investigating have figured out very clever ways to manipulate consumers’ buying habits so they can make a quick buck. American consumers have been complaining for years about these misleading practices and asking for answers � and rightly so,” said Chairman Rockefeller. “Millions of Americans are getting hit with these mystery charges every month � we have to do all we can to protect the hard working families relying on us to look out for their wallets and well-being”

PARTNERS PAID OVER $10 MILLION

1-800-Flowers.com
Buy.com
Classmates.com
Columbia House
Confi-Check
Expedia/Hotels.com
Fandango
FTD
Hotwire
InQ
Intelius
MovieTickets.com
Orbitz
Priceline
Redcats USA
Shutterfly
Travelocity
US Airways
VistaPrint

PARTNERS PAID BETWEEN $1-10 MILLION

1-800 PetMeds
Adteractiv
Airtran Airways
Allegiant Air
Allposters.com
American Greetings
Auto Parts
Avon
Barnes & Noble
Bizrate.com
Bookspan
Boston Apparel Group
BuySeasons/Celebrate Express
Campusfood.com
Cendant Intercompany Agreements
Channel Advisor
Cheap Tickets
Choice Hotels
CollectionsEtc.com
Continental Airlines
Currents USA (123 Prints)
Custom Direct
Digital River
Dr. Leonard’s
Drugstore
eHarmony
eTix
eToys
Fareportal
FragranceNet
From You Flowers
FTD Florists Online
Gamestop/EBgames
Gevalia
Haband
Half.com
Hanover Direct
Hertz
HiSpeed Media
Infinity Resources
J.C. Whitney
Joann.com
Lillian Vernon
Live Nation
Marketworks
Miles Kimball
Musicnotes
MyLife.com
MyPoints
Pizza Hut
Potpourri
Restaurants.com
Riverdeep
Shoebuy
Simplexity
Spirit Airlines
Suresource/Americart
Thompson Group
Tiger Direct
TimeLife
True.com
True Credit (True Link)
Upsellit.com
US Search
Victoria’s Secret
Vitacost
WayPort
West
Yahoo

Even though there are disclaimers and disclosures displayed on the websites before you click yes, most people think they are clicking for a free movie ticket or some such deal. Most people are trained that if you’re going to make a purchase online, you have to enter a credit card. They don’t expect this information pass on. Webloyalty knows what the average user does, and deliberately does the opposite, to great profit for it and its partners.

If you do find Webloyalty charging you on your credit card, it’s pretty easy to call them up and ask them to refund all the charges.

One way to avoid getting ripped off like this when shopping online is to use a credit card that lets you use virtual or disposable account numbers, which are credit card numbers that are generated on-demand and can be used only once but they charge to your regular account.

[via Tech Crunch] (Thanks to Ivan!) (Photo: me and the sysop)

Comments

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  1. imnotbob says:

    What are “virtual or disposable account numbers”?

    • bonzombiekitty says:

      @imnotbob: Account numbers that are issued by credit/debit cards that are single use. They charge to your normal account, but can only be used once.

      • BeyondtheTech says:

        If you have a PayPal card, they also have a virtual credit card setup where you can use the numbers they generate to be used only once or only from one particular vendor. Very useful stuff.

    • r386 says:

      @imnotbob:
      one time use numbers that can be generated by some credit cards so re-occuring charges can’t be made

    • Riff Raff says:

      @imnotbob:

      Sadly, only Discover, some low-life banks (Citi, BOA), and some foreign banks offer this. I have to trade-off between better rewards on my Visa, and more security on my Discover.

      • binaryspiral says:

        @Riff-Raff: my credit union offers me this service on my Visa debit and credit cards they provide.

        Very handy for crap like this – but not handy enough when I’m ordering a stupid pizza and don’t want to spend another 2 minutes generating a one-shot credit card number.

        Why would a business even consider supporting this type of advertising?!

  2. gollerpr says:

    I’ve never hit yes to those thinbgs and I’ve STILL been signed up a couple of times. I’ve had all reversed, but where’s my compensation for time and energy spent on the phone and sifting through records to prove I DIDN’T ask for the service????

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      @gollerpr: Sometimes it’s really hard to avoid. I got pinged once as a result of a purchase I made at buy.com. Needless to say, I don’t patronize them anymore.

      You call the 800 number from your credit card statement, and they cheerfully refund your money, probably to keep the state Attorney General from taking an interest. Plenty of people don’t read their statements very carefully, and that’s what Webloyalty and others like them are counting on.

  3. oblivious87 says:

    Maybe I’m smarter then the average internet user, but I knew clicking “yes” to those would sign you up for a monthly fee sort of service. Seriously, I don’t see the issue here since its pretty obvious that you’ll be signed up for a recurring fee even before clicking “yes” in the first place!

    • mac-phisto says:

      @oblivious87: these companies rarely provide the services that get you to sign up in the first place. i’ve dealt with more than a few individuals who thought these were legitimate programs that offered buyers’ discounts, but they never received any such service. my favorite was an individual who completed a short survey (“click the boxes next to the hobbies that interest you” sort of thing) & was subsequently billed $12.95 for each category that was clicked.

      all these companies are doing is siphoning money off of people – how can you not see that as an issue?

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      @oblivious87:
      “Maybe I’m smarter then the average internet user, but I knew clicking “yes” to those would sign you up for a monthly fee sort of service. Seriously, I don’t see the issue here since its pretty obvious that you’ll be signed up for a recurring fee even before clicking “yes” in the first place!”

      Webloyalty/WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS is sneaky & not obvious. I ran into them when buying a domain name from dotster.com

      After purchasing a domain from Dotster they provided a link to a $15 coupon good on future Dotster purchases. To obtain the coupon I had to go to reservationrewards.com. I visited the site to get info and never signed up or gave them my credit card number. Later I noticed a $10.53 charge on my credit card from reservationrewards.com. I called RR and the #1 option on their phone system is “cancel my membership”. I pressed 3 to speak to an operator who cancelled the subscription and put thru a refund with no questions asked. It must happen a lot. The operator said that by inputting my email address on their site (to get info on my coupon) I had authorized Dotster to give reservationrewards my credit card number. Very sneaky.

  4. TCinIowa says:

    Classmates.com is associated with something sleazy? Say it isn’t so!

    • Tambar says:

      @TCinIowa: Classmates exhorts me to pay to read guestbook entries my classmates have left; it’s a fake name no one could possibly have gone to school w/ & surely no one real is signing this fake name’s guestbook. Did *you* go to school w/ Medulla Oblongata?? Or is it possible Classmates is LYING??

  5. Mecharine says:

    I didn’t realize so many main stream companies were pulling this crap. It just reinforces the notion that all companies are out to screw their customers. Pizza Hut, seriously?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @Mecharine: Oh yes, indeed!

      If you order online with them a page pops up after you send your order. It starts off saying that it’s loading a deal for you. It then says it failed to load the main deal but to try these others instead. It’s a bunch of discounts/ads for other businesses.

      You’ll also get e-mail about how ordering pizza can get you free MP3s.

      • neost says:

        @Rectilinear Propagation: I quit ordering from Pizza Hut for that very reason, sent them an email explaining how annoying that talking frickin’ ad is and how bush league I think it is that they even do that. Never even got a response.

        • EricaJoy says:

          @neost: I got a response from Pizza Hut when I asked them about it 2 months ago, but you aren’t going to like it.

          They say “The Web Loyalty program provides value to customers at a time when they need it most.”

          I wrote about it here: [www.ericabaker.com]

  6. morkus says:

    It is for this reason that when I set up computers for friends and family, one of the first things I do is hide the Internet Explorer icon, install Firefox, and install Adblock Plus. It sucks, and I’m sorry to all of those websites who rely on ad revenue to keep going, but things like this just make it necessary.

    There is too much scammy crap getting onto computers through ad networks to try to pretend that ad-blocking software isn’t a first line of defense at this point.

    • all4jcvette says:

      Tiger Direct is just a scam company as well. Buy.com used to be a great company, right up there with Newegg, but the last several years it as become a freakin scam company as well.

  7. jpdanzig says:

    Good for consumerist to list all the sites that allow these parasites to prey on their customers!

    And a word to these websites: we consumers will hold YOU equally accountable for these bullsh*t discount deals.

    I will not patronize a web store that enables — in fact, profits from — this kind of abuse.

  8. czetie says:

    I’m not surprised to see Gevalia on there. I’ve been getting spam from them for years, most of it via sleazy outsourced “marketing” firms using obscured/falsified headers and hosts registered in eastern Europe. Gevalia always claims that it’s not their fault, it’s a rogue outsourcer… even though the same sleazebag keeps showing up using different disposable domains.

    • pot_roast says:

      @czetie: I knew someone that was working for one of those alleged ‘rogue outsourcers’ – it was Moxio or BonusBonez, the same people from freeflixtix.com and originally crushlink.com – now they are into spammy social networking with the trash site tagged.com.

      They just keep going. Gevalia was writing them big fat checks to pump out the spam too.

  9. nucwin83 says:

    This is why I don’t order pizza from “The Hut” anymore. I got tired of giving them money only to get slapped by an annoying TALKING advertisement.

  10. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I have a question… Does Webloyalty provide a service that anyone would find valuable? They seem like they just take money, but I would like to think they at least attempt to provide a worthless service for the money instead of no service.

    • shawnr3150 says:

      @AustinTXProgrammer: yes they do. im a member of 2 of their sites, complete savings, and shopper discounts and rewards. every month im paying $24 to be a member ($12 each) but i make $20 (10 each) a month just for making a purchase anywhere online from their monthly bonus, save $40 ($20 each) on discounted gift cards every month. with shopper discounts and rewards i get 10%-20% cashback from alot of sites, newegg and ebay both get 10% compared to free services which give 1-3%. and with complete savings they have a point program that you can earn points for being a member, buying discounted movie tickets and printing coupons (some of the coupon printers are crap that you have to download but i ignore those ones) which i make atleast $6.50 a month from. so i pay $24 and get $65-$70 plus any cashback from shopping.

      basically its a good deal if you know what your doing. The way they trick people into joining is bad, but the fees are in the fine print and if u fall for that crap have fun with your free xbox 360 from [www.xbox3604free.com]

      btw, i have always received my checks from them, anyone who hasnt probably didnt follow instructions to get it

  11. hi says:

    Come on guys… this is all just a conspiracy theory. You tin foil hat wearers.

  12. BrazDane says:

    “Millions of Americans are getting hit with these mystery charges every month – we have to do all we can to protect the hard working families relying on us to look out for their wallets and well-being”

    So fix the damn health care system!

    Oh, sorry, wrong discussion – but the quote fit so well.

  13. Buckus says:

    I’ve only bought anything at two of those sites – Hertz and Buy.com, whom I will never Buy anything again. Buy.com has got to be one of the worst online stores, right up there with TigerDirect.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      @Buckus: Tiger Direct arrived on my shitlist back when IBM compatible 386 machines were all the rage. Sears is right next to it, using cash registers that look like 386s built by Tiger Direct.

      I’ve bought holiday gifts from Buy and not had a problem.

  14. mattarse says:

    I would love to say I can boycott all of these but damn…I’ll never remember all of them. But atleast the sites I normally use aren’t listed – amazon, newegg, and betterworld.

  15. vastrightwing says:

    I no longer notice ads when I’m browsing. When I buy something, I now read all the fine print and look for check boxes at every page. I must read and interpret all the text because I know the marketing department is always trying to fool me into agreeing to pay for something I do not want.

  16. zircon says:

    Call me stupid, but I’m having trouble deciphering the first sentence of this post:

    “88 websites, a good number pretty big name sites, that earned millions, some in excess of $10 million, as partners in the infamous Webloyalty consumer ripoff. Pizza Hut? Say it ain’t so.”

    Am I missing something? I get the jist of it but it doesn’t seem to make any grammatical sense. Are there missing words or something?

  17. PLATTWORX says:

    I must be smarter than the average online shopper too. OF COURSE, it says they will charge the same credit card you just used. How do you think they get the number? Miss Cleo?

    I think I have had this happen once. I was charged for a membership I didn’t ask for and it took me a minute to file an online dispute and have my credit card company strike the charge.

    If you don’t check your CC bills and spot charges for memberships and things you did not purchase, you have too much debt and/or deserve to loose $9 a month.

  18. INsano says:

    Tiger Direct? Say it ain’t so!On the blacklist forever. Luckily we still have Newegg. I feel pretty good it’s the only website listed that I visit.

    Seriously though, Yahoo? They want to compete with Google and they’re shysters of this caliber? GTFO Yahoo. You’re starting to remind me of AOL you’re getting so pathetic.

  19. paladin732 says:

    Maybe im the exception but the webloyalty sites usually make me money…

    For instance:

    Completesavings: I forward them one recipt per month via email and get $10 back (making membership $2), then get heavily discounted movie tickets ($5/ticket), 20% off gift cards ($80 for $100 in cards), and “points towards gift cards” (ie, I spend 10 minutes on the site per month, and get enough for a $50 visa card every 4 months or so)

  20. stranger than fiction says:

    Some named scam participants were not unexpected â€” classmates.com, Columbia House, Gamestop, and From You Flowers, who delivered my mother a near-dead bush one Mother’s Day â€” but I’m pretty surprised by some companies I thought were more upscale (Gevalia, Vicky’s Secret, and various airlines and hotels).

    There are a lot of “parent” companies on this list (and a couple of “orphaned children” as well), obscuring names you might recognize. I’m lazy and it’s late, so off the top of my head:

    TigerDirect = CompUSA.com = CircuitCity.com

    Cendant = so much stuff I don’t know where to begin, but I think it includes at least 2 real estate brokerages, one of which is/was Century21

    half.com = eBay

    Choice Hotels = 10 different hotel brands

  21. strizis says:

    Whenever I come across this, I don’t finish my sale at the site, and go elsewhere for my purchase. Everyone need to remember to use your heads a little, and vote with your wallet.

  22. binaryspiral says:

    I had the pleasure of watching WebLoyalty hit my paypal debit card weekly for three months. Too bad the card had a zero balance and was only used for large purchases I wanted to spend my paypal balance with.

    I got dinged on this crap with a buy.com purchase – never bought another item from them after that. I hope the ten million is helping them recoup their losses from screwing their real customers over.

  23. ihazakitty says:

    As far as VistaPrint goes, there are plenty of other online print shops with comparable, if not better prices and quality, without the annoying checkout process. They don’t deserve the kind of loyalty they seem to get unless you just going for the freebies. Complaints about their club scam are very easy to find with a simple search, and there are lots.

  24. charlesbu says:

    Here’s an excerpt from Pizza Hut’s “Privacy Policy”:

    “In addition, from time to time, We may market certain third party services through Our Site. Should you choose to accept an offer from a third party, We will pass your relevant Personal Information, which may include your name, address, and credit/debit card number, to that third party.”

    http://www.pizzahut.com/PrivacyPolicy.aspx

  25. mster9ball says:

    i have just made 2 different purchases with vista prints and print123, and i have seen an uptick of spam e-mails, i always use a different e-mail address when ordering from new sites, in order to keep track of things like that. I also sign-up for e-mail alerts to my cc/debit card companies, when ever i make a purchase, to keep track of my spending habits.

  26. kateblack says:

    @BeyondtheTech: This.

    Years ago, I signed up for this or something like it via Orbitz.com. After I completed my online car rental with them, they offered me a $20 giftcard for gasoline if I signed up with their affiliate. Signup had a free 30-day trial period and as long as you canceled before then, your card would not be charged. I read the fine print, and it seemed worthwhile. They never sent the gift card. I canceled. They billed my card anyway. I had to do a chargeback.

  27. HogwartsAlum says:

    @BeyondtheTech: Yeah, really. We’re all trained also to look for security checks like https and encryption and all that. I expect them to pass on my email if I haven’t opted out, but not my card info. That’s just plain theft.

  28. goober says:

    @Loias: And here, I thought that they just wanted to help us out at their own detriment! My eyes have been opened. ;)

  29. Smashville says:

    @remington870_20ga: What sucks is that a lot of them are starting to offer online only specials…

  30. DinnerBelle says:

    @HogwartsAlum: Eh, I just recieved my order from VistaPrint and if you don’t mind clicking through the upsells, the product is a pretty great quality for the price.

    But the upsells are annoying and pretty aggressive.

  31. Smashville says:

    @HogwartsAlum: I will say the product is good, but it may be about the most annoying checkout process ever.

  32. all4jcvette says:

    Or you can do what I do, and Install Kaspersky Internet Security 2010. Works with all the browsers. @remington870_20ga: @morkus:

  33. barb95 says:

    @subtlefrog: I love my Discover card for this reason.

  34. DangerMouth says:

    @mac-phisto: Oh, no, they should NOT even try to go there.

    I understand why ad revenues are neccessary to websites (at least non ‘commercial’ ones that don’t actually have a product to sell), but you can’t make me read them. I’m trying to think of a real world conterpart to this, and all I can come up with is making those damn perfume inserts out of kevlar so they can’t be ripped out.

    However, I’m a believer in whatever technology can do, technology can undo, so if that practice becomes widespread, someone will create a ‘better’ adblock, causeing the marketer to create a ‘better ad’ and so on.

    Eventually we will reach a point where we’ll need to update our apps and plugins every 15 seconds.

  35. PsiCop says:

    @Radi0logy: I hadn’t, until you mentioned it. Nice catch!

  36. sgtcody says:

    @Smshvll_s flng dsmvld: I got nailed at VistaPrint. I never could get them to stop the charges so I had my bank handle it for me. I got half of the money back.

  37. holytrainwreck says:

    @HurtsSoGood: All of corporate America is eventually going to wind up on your shitlist. Then you can move to Tahiti and live in the bush, I guess.