The web is wonderful.  I absolutely need it almost constantly for so many purposes these days.  There are online news, videos, googled information, wikipedia, reading/writing e-mail, blogging, social networking of all kinds (especially Facebooking and Twittering); however, this morning, all this goodness and functionality that had appeared as glittering stardust temporarily turned, figuratively, into very dirty, nasty dust for me.  I discovered that we had been web-scammed!  There, on my charge card bill was an extra fee from an unfamiliar source.  Although the fee was only $12, I have the habit of leaving no figure unchecked and no unknown charge unchallenged.

Speeding to the finish line of this sordid story, I can reveal that a popup box on the web site of Continental Airlines (no less!) had led the user to inadvertent and completely unintended membership in an outfit called RESERVATION REWARDS, which charged a monthly fee automatically for the privilege of whatever it proposed to offer in the way of discounts in hotels, air travel, movies, restaurants, etc.  All the innocent user had to do was click on the link thinking he/she was going to the next part of the airline site to make a legitimate reservation.

Googling helped me locate 30 screens of customer complaints about this company, most people not having noticed the extra charge until many months had gone by.   A quick call to the credit card company revealed that now we must obtain new credit cards with different numbers, a decided annoyance in most active people’s lives, entailing numerous explanatory phone calls and follow-up calls when the new cards come.  Another quick call ensued to the actual questionable company in question, where their automatic message declared that the caller could push “1” to quit membership (they were very prepared for a multitude of such requests, apparently) and a subsequent real live (I think) operator coolly and cheerfully offered to refund all fees (closing with “and is there anything else we can do for you today?”)

To me, the fascinating feature of this web-scam is that it is not illegal–immoral and unethical perhaps, but not illegal. Oh yes, it is slithery and slimy, but the clever way this con game is perpetrated enables it to survive unscathed, despite the blogs that cover many screens condemning it.