A Public Service Announcement

The Internet can be a dangerous place for the innocent of all ages; even adults can be lured by shiny promises. The following is a cautionary tale, a public service announcement, if you will.

Bob (he’s just so cute) saw what he thought was an “article” on what he thought was WebMD’s website. The story claimed that a housewife had discovered a new and uniquely successful tooth-whitening product. The “article” claimed that, just for the low, low cost of shipping and handling, a sample of the two tooth-whitening products would be shipped to you. That seemed benign enough. What could go wrong? Gladys had discovered the dental fountain of youth and she was willing to share.

Now, I don’t fault a guy for wanting white teeth. I am a big fan of white teeth. I do, however, fault a guy for missing the fine print. And I kind of want to fault him for not noticing that this was an advertisement and not an “article” because, really, how often does an “article” in the Wall Street Journal, for example, try to sell you something?

You see where this is going, right? Bob unintentionally joined not one, but two tooth-whitening clubs. While the original charge was minimal, the ongoing charges were about $100 a month each. With the click of a mouse we were potentially down $200 a month. But our teeth would be super white, you say. In theory that would be true, except that the product was actually the same tooth-whitening product that our dentist gives us only in a strength that would require one to have granite teeth to withstand.

After a few phone calls the damage was mostly undone. We ended up down about fifty bucks and one shipment of tooth-whitening acid. Then this morning I found another charge, this one for a company that protects your identification. How is that for irony? A company that protects your identity whose business practices include signing you up without your explicit knowledge. Yeah, I totally trust them with my identity. I said as much to the representative who tried to talk me out of canceling our membership.

I fully expect more charges to appear, but I have always been crazy diligent about checking our bank activity. Now I am kind of curious to see which other clubs Bob has made us members of. Oh, and Bob may or may not have lost his debit card privileges, at least where the Internet is concerned.