‘I’m more careful about online subscriptions after a dodgy experience’

Feb 21, 2020
This situation is something that many seniors have faced in the past. Source: Getty.

I was doing some overseas aid work in Indonesia, primarily in Makassar, last year, that required constant use of my laptop, which I take everywhere when I travel.

During my time in Indonesia, I had to prepare a vocational course for young adults leaving school, looking to apply for their first job. The course required internet use to download pictures, graphics and information from similar programs that were run elsewhere.

I found my laptop was getting slower and slower, which was frustrating as I had tight deadlines to meet, so I searched for websites that would help speed up my laptop and provide a faster connection to the internet.

As I was only in Makassar for another month, I subscribed to a site I found and paid an initial one-month subscription cost. I was very careful to make sure I was only paying for one month and didn’t subscribe to ongoing payments as I wasn’t going to use the site again once I returned to Australia. I didn’t think to cancel the subscription as I thought I was paying only for one month’s use.

I provided my American Express (Amex) credit card details and the site only provided a marginally better service than I had prior to subscribing, but I didn’t give it much thought until I returned to Australia.

When I received my monthly Amex card account statement, I found the site had billed me for a further month of subscription. I immediately contacted Amex to stop the ongoing payments to the site and asked for a refund for the extra month’s expense.

Amex were wonderful to deal with – they not only blocked any further payments for that site but they immediately refunded me the additional monthly subscription cost I was charged. They also notified the site directly that my subscription was for one month only and that my account with them was now terminated.

Unfortunately, I am still receiving monthly reminders nine months on since that experience, mainly offering me subscription renewals and better deals!

I have learnt to be cautious of paying for any memberships or subscriptions as they may try to charge my credit card even after I’ve cancelled. So now, I am even more careful about giving away my credit card details over the internet, unless it is through a tried-and-trusted company that I have either used before, or have good knowledge of its security features.

I will also make sure that I have thoroughly researched the site before using it, mainly looking through consumer feedback from websites such as Product Review.

Starts at 60 takes your online safety seriously, which is why we’re sharing Peter’s experience. Comparethemarket.com.au says that just two-thirds of Australians with credit cards ensure they only make purchases from secure websites. The comparison site offers five simple tips for safer online transactions:

  • Only use secure sites – you can tell if a site is secure it its URL starts with https (not http – the addition of the ‘s’ means ‘secure’) and shows a padlock symbol in your browser, because a https site ensures your information is transferred in an encrypted form.
  • Know your seller – check customer reviews of any site you’re considering buying from and, if a person calls you on the phone in response to your online query, ask for a phone number that you can double-check on their website before using it to call them back.
  • Don’t be lazy with passwords – avoid the temptation to use the ‘remember my details/password’ option offered by many sites, because hackers could potentially find this information if they gained access to your device.
  • Be wary of public wi-fi – never conduct financial transactions while connected to public wi-fi because scammers can set up fake wi-fi networks designed to steal the information you transfer.
  • Always log out – closing your browser doesn’t sign you out of a site, so make sure you do this to prevent anyone accessing your device and thus your accounts. 
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IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.

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