The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Posts Tagged ‘electronic cigarette scam

Anatomy of an Internet scam

I’m fairly careful when it come to taking the online bait. I like to read the fine print and I know if an offer sounds too good to be true,  it’s probably not true.  But, sometimes I slip up and make a mistake.

Recently I’ve been looking at electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, but I don’t know anyone personally who has any experience of them. Online testimonials from strangers don’t count much with me, but a free trial offer online did catch my eye. Trial offers are a standard marketing strategy for new products. The company is betting that you will like the product and buy it. This makes sense for consumable products like razor blades and electronic cigarettes. The razor blade doesn’t last long and if you like it, you have to buy more.

It’s the same way with electronic cigarettes that use consumable nicotine cartridges. The electronic cigarette is a smokeless nicotine delivery system, and as cigarette companies have known for a long time, nicotine addicts make good long-term customers. So, a free trial offer of an electronic cigarette starter kit seemed reasonable to me. The company might lose money on the starter kit, but they would make it up on the refill cartridges.

But it was a trick. It was a nasty little trick that more than a few fell for. The company website intentionally hid the full terms of the deal by linking through using black type on a black background. The nasty details were there, but they were literally invisible to casual inspection. Only by selecting the text and highlighting it is reverse color did the link to the full terms of agreement become visible.

As you can see at the bottom of this web page screen shot, indicated by the white arrow which I added, there is nothing but blackness. But, once I highlighted the text, voila!

The invisible becomes visible. There is a  “Terms Conditions and Refund Policy” that was intentionally hidden as dark type on a dark background. You are not supposed to see it.

The terms of the “Free Trial Offer” include:

“….In other words, upon enrollment in the Program, you authorize Company to charge your credit card $4.95 (USD). As a member in the Program, you have 14 days to try the Product (the .Trial Period.). Please note that delivery time is subtracted from your Trial Period, and will reduce the number of days allocated to your Trial Period. If the Product is not right for you, call 1-877-647-3625 during the Trial Period, as long as you return the product in accordance with the time limit described in Section 4, Company will not charge you another dollar. Otherwise, at the end of your Trial Period, as a member in the Program, your credit card will be charged $99.67 (USD) for the Product you already received. Then 30 days from your initial order of the Product (and every 30 days thereafter), you will be sent a new supply of the Product containing 4 packs of cartridges, (A total of 24 cartridges) and your credit card will be charged $79.62 (the .Monthly Fee.). Please note that Florida residents must add sales tax. “

The important point to notice:

1. The 14 day trial period starts from the order date and not form the date you receive the electronic cigarette starter kit.

2. To avoid further charges to your credit card, you must first telephone before the end of the 14 day period to get a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) , and as stated in Section 4 (which is actually Section 6) you must “return the starter kit with a Return Merchandise Authorization (a RMA) number within 30 days from the date you placed your order.”

More than a few have been deceived by this. Their first clue that the “Free Trial Offer” is not free is when their credit card gets hit with an unexpected $99.67 charge.

The company:

S. Krieger Enterprises LLC d/b/a No Flame E-Cigarette

6538 Collins Avenue #95 (This is a UPS Store mail drop)
Miami Beach, FL 33141



If you wish to cancel future deliveries of the Product or receive an RMA number, you must call 1-877-647-3625. If you cancel prior to the expiration of the Trial Period and would not like to be billed for the full amount of the Starter Kit you must return the starter kit with a return merchandise authorization (an .RMA.) number within 30 days from the date you placed your order. If you do cancel within the 14 day trial and do not want to be charged for the starter kit we must receive your starter kit with an RMA number 30 days from the date you placed your order otherwise you will be billed $99.67. If you fail to cancel prior to the expiration of the Trial Period or you fail to return the starter kit with an RMA number within the 30 days from when you placed your order, your credit card will be charged $99.67 for the Product that was shipped to you.

If you cancel after the expiration of the Trial Period, you may receive a refund, but only if the starter kit is received by us with an RMA number within 30 days from the date you placed your order. Refunds will not be given on packages marked .Return To Sender.. All Product returns must be sent to No Flame E-Cigarette. For purposes of calculating the 30 days for this refund/return policy, each Product that is shipped to you after the expiration of the Trial Period is deemed to have been ordered when such Product is billed to your credit card.

Buyer beware.  Cavaet emptor.  Don’t whine … COMPLAIN!

Federal Trade Cmmission Bureau of Consumer Protection – complaint form online

Southeast Florida Better Business Bureau
Florida Attorney General Economic Crimes Contact Form


Written by Tom Fox

11/12/2012 at 6:57 pm