NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Extra charges may be getting tacked onto your credit or debit card, and you may not even realize you are handing over the money.
As CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported Wednesday, the practice is completely legal – and it is starting to happen more often.
Kim Orlando is a travel blogger who writes and tweets about her adventures. Recently, she paid a company for a trial subscription that would track reaction to her tweets.
“I thought I was going to pay $149 for that one month,” she said.
But instead, Orlando was billed for four months in a row – something she said she never signed up for.
“I thought, ‘Well, this is fishy,’” she said.
Experts said this type of “trial subscription” that becomes permanent is just one type of “gray charge.”
“Grey charges are unwanted sneaky little charges that are starting to show up on consumers’ credit statements and bank statements,” said financial expert Jeffrey Cutter.
One way businesses get away with it is that people do not pay close enough attention to their credit card and bank statements.
“I’m embarrassed to say that it took me four months to figure out I had been billed every month,” Orlando said.
You may also be subjected to hidden charges when you buy something online and miss checking a box that lets you opt out of any additional purchases.
“Over the past half a year, we have seen more and more of these charges,” Cutter said.
Cancelled gym memberships or unwanted magazine subscriptions are other hidden charges that may suddenly re-appear on statements months after they were stopped.
But many gray charges are legal if businesses spell them out in the fine print of their terms and conditions, which most of us just gloss over.
“Make sure when you are purchasing anything that you read everything and understand exactly what you’re doing,” said Jerry Cerasale of the Direct Marketing Association. “That’s partially your job.”
The Federal Trade Commission said it is getting consumer complaints about gray charges. And the Direct Marketing Association – which advocates for both consumers and marketers – said while there sometimes may be a misunderstanding, companies other times just do not follow the rules.
“That’s just going to make me an unhappy customer,” Orlando said. “I’m certainly not going to sign up for anything that they have to offer in the future.”
Something else experts say to watch for are monthly subscriptions that creep up in price over time.
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