NEW YORK - Visa Inc. in the past six months has cut off 100 scammers who use bogus marketing to dupe consumers.
Among the most common hustles: billing the credit cards of customers who thought they were getting free trial products like dietary supplements or teeth whiteners $79.95 per month or more, and then making them jump through hurdles to cancel the charges.
While there are always a handful of complaints about merchants, most are resolved quickly. But in the case of the ongoing charges, it was clear the problem was widespread. “Consumers are being fleeced,’’ said William M. Sheedy, a Visa group president.
Visa said about 100 merchants had their payment processing terminated because of chronic complaints since early summer. The scam is so common, Visa is teaming up with the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau to alert consumers.
Most of the time, the swindlers use Internet ads to lure their customers. The ads often feature unauthorized photos of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray, implying endorsements for supplements like acai berries or teeth whiteners. Newer variations take advantage of the recession with work-at-home scams, or con people into seeking information about applying for government grants.
“The game here is to get people hooked, keep them on the hook for monthly charges as long as you can, and only stop making those charges when you’re forced to,’’ said Stephen Salter, vice president of BBB Online.
Before making a purchase, consumers should check the company out with on the BBB website, www.bbb.org, to see if it has racked up complaints. Consumers who have been caught up in scams should file complaints with the FTC online at ftc.gov or by phone at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).