You're Being Scammed Right Now

You’re probably being ripped off at this very moment and you don’t even know it. Do you have frequent flyer miles? Have you checked lately to see what they’re worth? Probably a lot less than when you signed up. Everywhere we turn, companies are pulling back from the value they offered when you signed the contract and handed over your payment, and leaving fees and restrictions in their wake. Gift cards whose value dwindles over time. Credit card payment due dates getting shorter and shorter. Credit card interest rates shooting up for no reason. Impossible to fulfill warranty repairs. Overdraft fees completely disproportionate to their cost. Health insurance coverage denied for the flimsiest of reasons. The list goes on.

Companies have clauses in their contracts which say they’re allowed to change their policies at any time. You can imagine what would happen, however, if you instead arbitrarily decided that you felt like paying your cable company $20 less per month because of a change to your “personal consumer policy.” That’s right, they would harass you with notices and phone calls and then eventually sell your bill to a debt collector who would phone you all the time and call you nasty names that you normally have to pay $2.99 a minute to hear. Yet, somehow they have the right to degrade the level of service or quality or quantity, THE VALUE, at any time. Well guess what, the promise was X dollars for Y service. Effectively, by say, making Y service ½ Y service, they are stealing your money.

If you bought what you thought was a new microwave and came home to find it full of wet paper towels, you can easily say that this is a scam. But the practices of some of the most trusted companies come with bubbly corners, and everything looks so pleasing and professional, and everyone wears a tie, and all the “policies” are clearly explained in nanoscopic print …but that doesn’t change what lies there once you cut away all the fat and gristle. We call it a scam. They call it a business plan.

Most people seem not to care. They accept these minor inconveniences as part of the absurdity of modern life. Or maybe it’s just “learned helplessness.” Of feeling that effort is futile, or would be seen as “whiny.” Well you can get what you deserve without raising your voice or making threats. Our readers do it every day. They use tactics like those described in The Ultimate Consumerist Guide To Fighting Back to get what is due. Sometimes it’s as simple as just asking, politely, and firmly.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.