Last week, I found a pending charge, which eventually posted, on my Bank of America checking account for $109.65. The charge showed up as:
CHECKCARD 0426 REVENUESHIELD866882318 866-8823186 UT
Now, I’m pretty observant about my expenditures, and if it’s not in Quicken, it’s probably on a receipt in my wallet (or my wife’s purse). I KNOW Stacie wouldn’t have spent that much without running it by me (not that I have to approve, but she would have confirmed it fits in the budget), and I KNOW I didn’t spend $109 for “Revenue Shield”, so I did some more investigation.
I called the number from the BoA transaction and got a voicemail stating the company’s website is “Extreme Lean Rx.com“. I couldn’t leave a message, and they told me to put in a ticket through their site to contact support or billing.
I plugged some search terms into Google and out popped a few results from ComplaintBoard.com RipOffReport.com. There’s actually a SLEW of scam reports across the web for this company, and it’s not the first time I’ve been received fraudulent charges by them.
How did they get my card information??
My past experience with this company, which also goes by “Hoodia Fat Burn” and “Lean Life PM“, among many other aliases, started when I completed an offer for my wife’s “Free” laptop a couple years ago. I used my GM Card to complete all the offers, and one was for a free 7 day trial of Lean Life PM. I canceled within the 7 days, and got a refund of all charges except shipping, and moved on. Everything was peachy.
But then a year later (last summer), I found some charges on my GM Card from Lean Life PM and Hoodia Fat Burn. I called GM Card, who reversed the charges successfully, and figured it was over again. But then they billed me the next month! I got those reversed, and this time I canceled the old card and got a new one issued.
But now they have my debit card information! Considering I NEVER gave out that card for any online transactions except Amazon and other major vendors, I wonder how they got it. Today, I actually received the diet pills for which I was charged, but the sender information on the package is simply “Fulfillment CTR, OKC, OK 73109”. Not very helpful.
Who is Extreme Lean Rx?
But it seems I’m not the first person to get hit like this. Channel 5 in Fayetteville, AK posted a story about a woman who got charged by Extreme Lean Rx just as I had. She has tried to return the pills, only to have them rejected by the sender. She has tried phone calls, letters, emails…all to be ignored. She has been hit for over $250, which makes me wonder why she didn’t cancel her card immediately. However, I didn’t cancel my GM Card right away because I figured it was a one-time thing.
The parent company goes by a number of pseudonyms including “Physical Enhancement Labs” and “Pure Energy“. Here is the Better Business Bureau entry for Physical Enhancement Labs. They certainly do not have a stellar track record.
Reading further through the article, it appears PEL is only the supplier, not the billing agent, for these diet pill scams:
With “the volume we do, we can’t please everybody,” Clanton said. “I’ve got a list of all the people we’re refunding.”
Alameda’s name isn’t on that list. Clanton says that’s because Pure Energy is also a supplier, filling other company’s orders.
“Because it has our address they think we’re the ones that charged their credit card,” Clanton said.
What do I do now?
Well, as soon as the charge changed from Pending to Complete in my account, I called Bank of America to report the fraudulent charge. I told them I called the number listed on the transaction, but I couldn’t leave a message. They asked the standard questions like whether I lost my card or loaned it to someone else (definitely not). They reversed the charge and told me I would be receiving an affidavit I must sign confirming the offense and a few other terms before they could proceed with the investigation. They then canceled my card on the spot and reissued a new one (which I got today).
I got the affidavit, confirmed I did not order the said product, signed it (along with my wife who is on the account) and sent it back today.
One additional hassle to arise out of this was needing to call any merchant, like Verizon (for Dry Loop DSL) and my gym, to change my debit card information for autobilling. I spent an hour just with Verizon trying to chase down the right person who could change my billing information. See, when you sign up with Dry Loop DSL, you don’t get an account number, just a phone number (usually the one you had before cancelling the voice account). In the end, they just pointed me to their DSL account page to change the information.
1. Be careful to whom you give your credit and debit information. Obviously in this case, I never provided any diet pill company with my check card digits, so I don’t know how they got them.
2. Be vigilant about monitoring all of your bank and credit accounts for fraudulent charges. Don’t just look for big charges. They could also try to scam a few pennies or dollars off of you, which would fly under most people’s radar.
3. Bank with an institution with excellent customer service. My experience with Bank of America and Household Bank (who owns GM Card) were very professional and prompt. I’m not sure how small, local banks would handle these problems though.
4. Don’t hesitate to cancel your card. As soon as you find a fraudulent charge (for a product or service you didn’t order), CANCEL THE CARD! Most banks and credit card companies are happy to reissue you a card since it costs them very little compared to the hassle of litigation with these scam artists.
I’m also interested whether any of you have been hit with similar scams in the past, and the outcome of each. Comment on this post and let me know!
I got a letter from Bank of America a few days ago that they have resolved the dispute and the credit they issued to me is permanent. That is, they have confirmed it was a fraudulent charge. It’s unfortunate that each person must dispute these transactions themselves rather than the banks and CC issuers taking down the perpetrators directly.