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Budget Has No Clue Which Credit Card They Are Giving Out To Scammers

02/26/2010

Part Three of my investigation into the Budget Trilegiant Scam

In part one, I told you about the solicitation I received, in the form of a check, from Trilegiant, to join a specious “membership club” in which they would charge my credit card “on file with Budget”.     In part two, we learned more about Negative Option Billing and Preaquired Account Marketing.    Since then, I have been trying to verify which credit card Budget has on file for me.

No Comment From Budget’s PR

When I turned to Budget’s public relations people, they had no comment, other to refer me to Trilegiant.     I know Trilegiant is a scam, I found that out in a .23 seconds on Google.   I wanted to know what part Budget has in this scam and how my credit card company may be complicit in this.

Budget Customer Service Has No Clue What’s Going On

A key ingredient in any corporate scam is keeping your customer representatives in the dark.   Budget seems to have this act down to a science.   I made five calls to Budget’s customer service number trying to find out which of my credit cards Budget “has on file” and was willing to provide to Trilegiant/Affinion.    On three of the calls, I was forwarded to Trilegiant.   The first of those calls was disconnected.   On the second call, I reached Trilegiant, but I could not speak to their customer service department without a “membership number.”   On the third attempt, I reached a human in the sales department who informed me that they could not tell me which credit card they had on file.   My fourth call to Budget’s customer service line was met with someone who attempted to transfer me to “a data center in Virginia.”   That call was disconnected.

My fifth call to Budget resulted in an astonished response that Budget would not have my credit card info unless I was a corporate customer or part of their frequent renter program, which I am not.    The representative seemed equally confused as to why I would receive a solicitation claiming to charge the credit card that I had “on file with Budget”.

Which Card Do They Have “On File”?

When pressed, each representative told me that the card must be the last one I had used.    Since I haven’t rented with Budget much lately, I know exactly which card was used, and I am currently corresponding with the card company.     I would like to give them ample time to investigate this matter before I discuss exactly which one it is.    My impression is that such “sharing” of customer’s credit card information for an unrelated activity with a (likely fraudulent) third party is against their merchant agreement, and the company in question has agreed to investigate this.

Why I Am Digging So Hard?

I will refer back to the Harvard study:

Almost all of the consumers paying for the services sold through preacquired account marketing are unaware their accounts have been charged and unaware they have “purchased” the service.

Many of these consumers are charged because they have diminished mental capacity or struggle with the English language.Preacquired account marketing works only because it singles out consumers who do not understand the solicitation or who do not notice the account charge….

When I mentioned this investigation to my wife, she told me that her parents had become victims of a similar scam.   Every month, they find a mysterious charge on their credit card.   Every month they call their bank and have to have it disputed.    Every month it reappears.

My wife and her family were born in a central Asian republic that was part of the former Soviet Union.  Although they speak several languages, her parents have not yet mastered English since moving to the United States.    Nevertheless, I have never met such honest and hard working people who are now proud American citizens.   They, and others like them, are the target of of these scammers.     Other targets include senior citizens and people with cognitive disabilities.

These companies are preying on our most vulnerable citizens and I want them to stop.   I might not force them to stop, but I will certainly do my part to let the world know who they are and what they are doing.

The series continues with Part 4, The Sad Truth About The Budget Trilegiant Scam.

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