Why unauthorized charges show up after consumers use online shopping

Woman finds over $700 worth of auto-renewal charges

By Adrianna Iwasinski

HOUSTON - (WKMG) How many of you check your bank statements or PayPal accounts, looking for hidden, unauthorized charges?

Nancy Shelley said she thought she had a handle on all her charges, but a closer look revealed she had lost hundreds of dollars to a company she had never even heard of.

"I felt quite foolish, because financial systems are something I know about," said Shelley, who used to install computer software around the country but is now retired. "The fact that it could happen to me says that it can happen to anyone."

Shelley said she noticed the $29.95 charge to a company called SafeCart on a recent bank statement. When she started investigating, she discovered the charges had been happening every month for two years. There were nearly $700 total in charges that Shelley said she didn't know about and, to her knowledge, did not authorize.

She said the monthly SafeCart charge had gone undetected because it was such a small amount -- one that looked like what she spent to fill up her car with gas.

"I have no idea what it is paying for," Shelley said. "I have no idea where it came from."

So what is SafeCart? Its website brags that it is one of the internet's leading credit card payment systems. The charge for the company often comes after you buy something like an e-book, hardware or software online. Shelley admitted she makes a lot of purchases online, but it wasn't until News 6 told her to do a Google search that she discovered all the online warnings from other customers.

We found dozens of comments and reviews claiming the company is pulling an automatic billing scam. One online review said, "It was done without my knowledge or consent." Another said. "PayPal should put them on their fraud list."

The list of complaints go on and on.

Shelley said she even reached out to PayPal since the charges were taken out of her PayPal account, but she hasn't received any sort of refund, or even feedback.

"They didn't know what SafeCart was," Shelley said. "They didn't know what the transactions were. They didn't know what they were going to do. They never made any commitment to get back to me to say they would follow up on it."

Shelley said while she'd love to get her money back, her main mission is to inform others. She encouraged anyone who reads this to check his or her financial statements to see if they, too, have unknowingly been paying a similar charge.

"If we reach one more person who doesn't have it happen, then it's a win," Shelley said. "Even if each person is only losing $29.95 a month, someone is making a good living off of this. That's unacceptable."

Shelley said on the SafeCart website it even claims to be e-secure and has the backing of the Better Business Bureau.

Upon a check-in with the Better Business Bureau, it was discovered SafeCart is accredited with the Better Business Bureau in Victoria British Columbia, where SafeCart is located.

[RELATED: BBB reasons for ratings]

The agency explained that RevenueWire handles the sales and distribution of software and digital products for many developers and publishers worldwide and that RevenueWire's payment processing system is SafeCart.

"SafeCart is not a scam and complaints indicate that generally, people aren't reading about the automatic renewal service and the free software download," Nelson said.

"Since January 2016, we have not received any complaints directly about Safecart. However, we did locate two complaints involving alleged tech imposter scams that mention the use of SafeCart as a payment method," a representative with the Florida Office of the Attorney General said.

According to PayPal's community board, most complaints stem from people not reading the fine print about auto renewal services when they click on a free download of the software they ordered.

The best thing to do is check your settings on your banking and PayPal accounts and make sure you cancel any auto renewals you don't want.

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