Update – Unauthorized Credit Card Charges by Threefold Photos / Webshots

ReactivatingWebshotsMembers_

Scam: A dishonest way to make money by deceiving people. (Merriam Webster)

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

Why? There are seventeen million, nine hundred and forty thousand reasons why.
greed_s

4 thoughts on “Update – Unauthorized Credit Card Charges by Threefold Photos / Webshots

  1. I just received a $2.99 charge by Smile by Webshots on my bank account. I have not had a subscription for Webshots for many years so how on Earth did I just get a charge from them?! How can I prevent them from doing this in the future? How can I get the money back that they have already stole as well?

    BTW I DID NOT cancel my subscription in the past two years. It was MANY YEARS ago.

    • You were charged because they are using a membership list purchased from American Greetings to set up recurring billings for every person on that list. Interesting that you say your subscription was cancelled many years ago, because this directly contradicts Webshots management – they are saying that because they purchased the list, they own the active subscriptions (which is ridiculous on its own merits since the software no longer exists.) I intend to pursue this with the Federal Trade Commission – the fact that they are charging people who haven’t had active accounts in years could be very damning.

      You need to contact the credit card company to dispute the charges. (If you aren’t sure which card was billed, contact your bank to find out.) When you talk to a representative, in addition to disputing the charges tell them you want a block placed on Webshots for all future transactions. Webshots management is setting people up for recurring monthly charges, so this is a very important step. Even with the block, check your statement carefully each month and contact your cc company immediately if you see another charge.

  2. I am on the phone with my bank as I am writing this. I thought that Webshots had only illegally debited my account 1 time. I just discovered that they had done it 4 times. My bank is right now is issuing a stop payment on any further charges and they have filed my claim to be reimbursed for the 4 times they have already stolen money from me.

    Has the Better Business Bureau and any other state agencies been contacted about this business’s illegal practices?

    • There have been numerous complaints filed with the Better Business Bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission. The company claims these occurrences of unauthorized billings are just mistakes and glitches with the system. Narendra Rocherolle, the ringleader, is taking advantage of the ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding online contracts to take advantage of everyone who at one time was a member of Webshots.

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