Offered a reward but ended up with a monthly “membership” fee

By | October 21st, 2016

What’s this offer of “Dermallo” from the Delta.com site? Pat Morin wants to know. So will you. 

Question: A few months ago, while I was on Delta.com, I saw a pop-up ad that said I had been “selected” to participate in a survey about my experience with Delta. At the end of the short survey, it promised an “exclusive” reward worth at least $50.

After answering the questions, I was given a choice of a product. I chose an anti-aging cream and then learned I would be paying for shipping. I filled out the mailing information and my credit card info for the postage of $4.95.
There were several more pages before hitting “send”, and there must have been fine print somewhere.

Turns out when I gave the company my credit card, I was enrolled in a program that automatically renewed. Two weeks after my initial order, I was charged $117. Reading the fine print later, I realize that I had 14 days to cancel in order to receive a refund.

I called my credit card company, and it reversed the charges at first. But after the dispute process, they sided with the merchant. A credit card representative told me this could not be considered fraud since I willingly gave them my credit card.

Well, if it isn’t fraud, it certainly is a scam of sorts. It’s definitely not a “reward.”

The product is called Dermallo. I’ve tried calling them, but can’t get through to a manager, and I can’t get a refund. Can you help? — Pat Morin, San Bernardino, Calif.

Answer: The “quiz” you took was a little scammy, no doubt about it. I can’t believe it popped up on the Delta Air Lines site.

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I wouldn’t be so quick to pin this on Delta. Sometimes, malware can infect your computer and display pop-up ads on your page even when the company whose site you’re visiting didn’t approve them. I can’t believe Delta would allow this kind of nonsense. (If it did, then shame on them.)

This kind of pop-quiz offer is problematic because it almost looks legitimate — your personal information in exchange for a prize. But the quiz was only seven questions long, hardly enough time to extract anything of value from you. The tip-off? The fine print was more verbose than the exam, and that should have had the red flags flapping in a gale-force wind.

If you’d taken the time to read the terms, you probably would have noticed that your “reward” had some important strings attached. Not only were you paying for shipment, but you were also agreeing to a membership that self-renewed. In order to get out of it, you needed to exit within two weeks.

That’s incredibly deceptive. Unless you reviewed the terms closely, you might believe you were giving the company your credit card in order to pay for postage. Actually, this business intended to charge you much more unless you navigated its bureaucratic labyrinth.

For the last time, “rewards” should not cost you anything. If you’re paying someone to pay you, it smells a lot like a scam. Exit the ad, and then report it to the host site.

After considerable research, our advocates found the company that charged you. Initially, a representative insisted you’d already received a refund. But after we sent a copy of your credit card statement that showed you were still being billed, the charges were finally reversed.

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I’m happy to help, but please do yourself a favor and install an ad blocker.



  • sirwired

    Yeah, I’m also thinking malware, or some hidden pop-under. Because while Delta may be a money-hungry corporate beast, there’s precisely zero upside to renting out the corporate website to scum like this for a few cents.

  • deemery

    Silly customer. The reward was for the company whose link you clicked on. :-( :-(

    I’m appalled at how many supposedly secure websites (particularly -banks-) have off-site links for ads, trackers, etc. (I’m using a combination of Ghostery, AdBlock, JSBlocker on my browser and Little Snitch on my computer to see exactly what sites/locations get accessed from each website.)

  • AJPeabody

    Who says that when a popup says click here for a survey that all you get is what the popup said. It could just as easily been a link to a malware site inviting a download. In some, the “X” to close the popup is the malware link! Always close popups through the operating system, not from the popup itself.

    NEVER CLICK ON A POPUP.

    And by the way, the scum that tried to rip off the OP have his credit card and personal information. Want to lay any odds on their policy on selling this info to some identity thief? The OP needs a new credit card at once.

  • James

    Actually, it could have been an ad served on the Delta site.

    Most ads are now served via ad networks, not individual site inventories. The networks are the ones that use the tracking cookies to target ads. Even if the ad is served from a local inventory of ads, most sites will fill ads from a network if they can’t supply an ad themselves.

    The thing is, these ad networks work the same way — they use their inventory, and sell remaining inventory to other ad networks. When I worked with a company that did malware detection, the malware was almost always via ad networks (malvertizing was the term we used) and very often we’d see 8 or more levels of redirectory (ad networks going to other networks to fill inventory) It is all but impossible for a responsible company to track all the ads that will appear on their sites.

    This is why I agree with the advice — use a good ad blocker.

    But at this time, we’re seeing sites who are refusing to display their content unless the ad blocker is disabled for their site. I generally refuse, and recommend others do to — simply because of this network effect leaving their sites vulnerable to malvertizing. (Fortune and Wired are two such sites who put their demand for a couple pennies of advertizing ahead of the risk of serving malvertizing to their readers.)

  • Rebecca

    I always wonder who the people are that click on things like this. But they must be out there, otherwise they wouldn’t exist in the first place.

  • Alan Gore

    This is why we use ad blockers, folks. I would like to see a standard for acceptable advertising (banners but no popups, and no scams of any kind) that I could enable in my ad blocker as an option. But until then I’m blocking them all, and whenever I hit one of those sites that demand I turn off my ad blocker, I go somewhere else.

  • Mel65

    Pro Tip: anything that pops up on your computer without you having taken positive action to make that happen– don’t click on it.

  • Kairho

    Agree wholly. And will add that if an ad does manage to get by my AdBlock software and I’m interested, I never click anywhere in the ad but rather type the proper address into my browser directly to avoid misdirection and shenanigans often encountered.

  • Blamona

    any time you have to give cc info is it really free?

  • PsyGuy

    If you pay for it, it’s not a reward it’s a sale. It doesn’t matter how much, or how great a bargain it is.

  • PsyGuy

    Theres a huge upside it’s called profit. You have to go to the corporate website to do anything, I’m sure some executive came up with the idea of monetizing the traffic in some way. Delta may be getting a kickback for all we know. It’s not like Delta cares much about its customer image or reputation.

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