The management of Webshots (parent company Threefold Photos – distributor of Smile, Webshots Wallpaper & Screensaver and Message Bus) had two choices. Conduct business honestly, or conduct business dishonestly. They chose the latter.
They have taken it upon themselves to reactivate the accounts of everyone who paid for a Webshots premium membership within two years prior to the announced date of sale (October 2, 2012). If you cancelled your membership to Webshots prior to or during the transition from Smile, you might be thinking this won’t affect you. If this were an honest business managed by honest people, it wouldn’t – but we are dealing with a dishonest business managed by dishonest people.
So what does this mean? Everyone who had an active premium membership within two years of the sale of Webshots will be (or has already been) signed up to the latest incarnation of Webshots and charged a recurring monthly fee. And when I say everyone, I mean literally everyone – even people who passed away over two years ago. Fortunately some of the credit card information they have on file is so old the charges are being rejected, but if you have an active credit card on file – it is imperative you check your credit card and bank statement carefully each month. This is how the company details are showing up on the credit card statements of people who have already been victims of this scam: Webshots 415-8913264 CA. The amount will most likely be $2.99 but some people have reported being charged $3.18.
According to Webshots founder, Narendra Rocherolle, these are not unauthorized signups because members had already signed up for a recurring service – and the purchase of Webshots included the transfer of ownership of these recurring services from American Greetings to Threefold Photos. But there’s a big hole in this logic. People signed up for a recurring membership to the fully featured Classic Webshots – not a watered down wallpaper/screensaver app with the same name. If I sign a lease to drive a BMW, I’m signing a contract to pay a monthly fee to drive a BMW. The dealer can’t replace the BMW with a Kia and continue to charge me – even if he calls it a BMW.
And what of the members who already cancelled their accounts or members who passed away? How does management explain these charges? According to Rocherolle, if anyone was billed under these circumstances this was an error. Problem is, these ‘errors’ continue to occur on a regular basis, and there is no indication corrective steps have been taken to stop these unauthorized account reactivations. Much of the blame is being deflected to the user (member provided the wrong email when requesting a cancellation or posted cancellation request on Facebook but didn’t send email). Not surprising coming from a company that has mastered the art of obfuscation.
Why would a company reactivate the accounts of hundreds of thousands of ex-Webshots members without authorization from the members themselves?
- It is likely many people won’t notice a charge this small.
- If the charge is noticed, the victim will see the name Webshots and assume
- it is a source that can be trusted
- the subscription is for Classic Webshots
- Many people will accept the small recurring charge rather than go through the hassle of disputing the charge.
But those small charges add up to big numbers fast:
25,000 members × $2.99 × 12 months = $897,000
50,000 members × $2.99 × 12 months = $1,794,000
100,000 members × $2.99 × 12 months = $3,588,000
250,000 members × $2.99 × 12 months = $8,970,000
500,000 members × $2.99 × 12 months = $17,940,000