We’ve been scammed. Without so much as a “by your leave,” we found ourselves booked for a service that automatically charged us $15 a month. Here’s how they hook you: Let’s say there’s a box that says “Click here for our free shipping service.” Well, who doesn’t want free shipping? Sucker! You just signed up for automatic monthly payments that can go on for years.

The April, 2010, issue of PC World outlines these extremely questionable deals at considerable length. You can look at the magazine or see the contents on the web at They list the names of some big companies that participate in this so-called business practice. Nearly 30 percent of Americans have been stung by this. We think it’s outrageous. Out of 450 offenders, only eight companies have since cleaned up their act, including, US Airways, Priceline, 1-800-flowers, and Continental Airlines. Think these charges are penny ante? Think again: Since the practice started several years ago, $1.5 billion has been collected this way.  Do not accept any “free” offer after you’ve made a web purchase without looking at the fine print.

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