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Amerimark “Passport to Health” Scam
At the beginning of January I ordered a seat cushion from a company called Amerimark. I got the cushion. It was fine. I'm sitting on it now. But a little over a month later I was looking at my credit card statement, and I noticed that in addition to the charge for the cushion, Amerimark had posted a second charge three weeks later for $3.99. I had no idea what the additional charge could be for. I asked my wife about it. She didn't know either. But I figured it must be postage, or something like that, so I didn't think any more about it. After all, it was only $3.99.

But today I was looking at my credit card statement online, and I noticed that Amerimark had recently posted a third charge to my account, this time for $29.99. Now I decided to call Amerimark to find out what these charges were for. I reached a customer service rep who told me I had subscribed to their "Passport to Health" program.

Suddenly I remember. I had received a sales call from Amerimark back in mid-January trying to get me to sign up for their "Passport to Health" program. I told them I wasn't interested and thought that was the end of it. But they had my credit card information since I bought the cushion from them, so apparently they signed me up for it anyway.

The customer rep told me that the charges were in error and that he would cancel them immediately.

But after I hung up with him, I decided to google Amerimark, and I discovered I'm not the only person who has been "mistakenly" signed up for the "Passport to Health" program. They're pulling this scam on a regular basis.

"Passport to Health" appears to be a program that offers no (or very few) benefits, except the benefit of getting charged $29.99 every month (the first month is only $3.99). The really slimy part is that many of their customers are elderly people who may be less likely to look carefully at their credit card statements, so they never notice they're being charged $29.99 every month.

For instance, 800notes.com has an entire message board full of people complaining that they were ripped off by Amerimark. One person describes how they've been "charging my 87-year old mother $29.99 a month for 'Passport To Health' that she supposedly signed up for in April '07 when they called to 'make sure her Amerimark mail order arrived safely.'"

In addition, Tom from California has posted a report on ripoffreport.com describing how he was subscribed to the "Passport to Health" program after his wife bought a pair of shoes from Amerimark.

I didn't trust Amerimark to actually credit back what they had billed me, so I called my credit card company (Bank of America) to contest the charges. While I was on the phone with the billing dispute department, I described how Amerimark was scamming elderly people, and I urged Bank of America to do something, like stop accepting charges from Amerimark. But the service rep just gave me the run-around and didn't promise to do anything.

So I'm posting about it here to help spread the word. Hopefully if someone is considering making a purchase from Amerimark, they might come across this post and decide to shop elsewhere.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out who else I can report Amerimark to. The FTC? Better Business Bureau? I want to bring this company down.

Update: I checked out AmeriMark's listing on the Better Business Bureau's site. It turns out that the BBB has already received a lot complaints about them (I filed one more), and particularly about their Passport to Health program. The BBB page about AmeriMark notes:

Many complaints processed by the BBB concern confusion over the company's membership renewal policy in the Passport to Savings program and the Passport to Health program (formerly known as Family Health Network program). Many consumers claim they are not aware that the company automatically bills their accounts for the renewal fee unless they notify them to cancel. Many of these consumers complain that they were not aware that they had been enrolled in the program. The company has responded to these complaints by canceling the membership and issuing refunds. In January 2005, the Cleveland BBB met with company representatives. The company has indicated its willingness to work to correct the cause of consumer misunderstanding concerning enrollment and cancellation of these programs.

Apparently AmeriMark's meeting with the BBB didn't have much impact on the company, because they're still working the same old scam.
Business/Finance
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 26, 2008


You should report them to your state Attorney General's office.
Posted by Elizabeth  in  MA  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  06:55 PM
I agree with Elizabeth.

You may also make a cursory call to your local police (non-emergency line, please wink ) just to check on how and to who you would report something like that. If it is blatant credit card fraud (seems to be) and there is enough documented evidence against them (seems to be online) it might be something the FBI might be interested in since I'm guessing it crosses state lines.

I would also strongly suggest the Better Business Bureau. While there's not a lot they can actual do, it is a good source of information for people looking for reliable and safe businesses.
Posted by Tah  in  Idaho (Yes, Idaho)  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  07:08 PM
I also see a link to bizrate.com at the bottom of their page. Make sure you fill out a survey with appropriate ratings and comments.
Posted by Tah  in  Idaho (Yes, Idaho)  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  07:11 PM
Here in Texas, the state Attorney General's office has a consumer fraud division that goes after scams like this. I assume that California also has some form of consumer protection agency, and I would at least make a phone call to them.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Uncertain, Texas  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  07:23 PM
I congratulate you on reporting this scam! Hopefully by posting about it here, more people will take note and realise whether this is happening to them or not. Many people probably wouldn't consider searching online and looking up all the forums and things.
Posted by sarahearth  in  New Zealand  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  07:26 PM
Find out where they're advertising and contact the people that run the sites etc.

Most will unusally refuse to do business with scam artists.
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  07:27 PM
Isn't "mark" the term used by con men to refer to their victims?

How appropriate.

J/P=?
Posted by John Paradox  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  08:13 PM
I filed a complaint with the BBB. But it turns out the BBB has already received many complaints about them, and has even met with the company to discuss the complaints, so one more probably won't make much difference.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  08:40 PM
I would contact George W. Bush directly! Certainly, he cares all about the little people being taken by these criminals!!! Do it right away!
Posted by PiltdownHacker  in  East Success, Uckfield, UK  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  11:32 PM
The BBB is not a law enforcement agency. It's just an association of businesses.

However, since Amerimark is doing business in multiple states, they do fall under the juridstiction of the Federal Trade Commission. If any part of their deal involves the US Mail you can also get the Postal Inspectors involved.
Posted by Carl Fink  on  Wed Feb 27, 2008  at  01:08 AM
As described, the actions of the company are wire fraud as defined in 18USC. File a criminal complaint with the FBI.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Wed Feb 27, 2008  at  11:50 AM
I got ripped off by those people a year or two ago, too. I got signed up for the Passport to Health thing fraudulently through a third party company who contracts with Amerimark. I got a call claiming to be from Visa, saying they wanted to send me a reward for being such a good customer and keeping my account in such good standing. They didn't ask for my card number (they apparently had it already) or any other personal information, so I assume it was on the up-and-up. Instead of getting a "reward," I got signed up for the Passport to Health and some other rip-off subscription service.

Unfortunately, I was signed up on a bank account I hardly used (I had a portion of my paycheck automatically deposited there each month, and then had some bills paid automatically out of it. So it wasn't until a few months later that I noticed I was still being charged. I called them up, spoke to a supervisor, and, er, got a bit verbally abusive, demanding a full refund and accusing them of theft and fraud and some other things best not repeated. Eventually, they agreed to refund the last month's fee, but that was it.

In part, it was my fault - I should've been paying closer attention to my bank account. But still, they're clearly rip-off artists. I'm sorry to see they're ripping off other people too, but I'm glad to see you're trying to do something about it!
Posted by Josh Burnett  in  Oakland, CA  on  Wed Feb 27, 2008  at  02:21 PM
This is also a reminder to look carefully at your credit card statement every month. My wife had been in the habit of doing this from the time we got married and when the bill-paying got handed off to me at some point I continued the practice. A few years ago when we returned from a trip to England I noticed a couple of random charges for "gifts" that occurred the first day we were there. I figured out these were done by a currency exchange person at the Gatwick Airport in London. The scamster then probably moved on to someone else's number after that. Visa investigated and gave me credit and then issued me a new number. Since then, I scrutinize my bill the moment I get it in the mail as a kind of fraud check. It seems obvious that thieves like the person in London and the AmeriMarks are counting on most people not doing that.
Posted by Mperk2000  on  Wed Feb 27, 2008  at  05:08 PM
I sent an e-mail to my mom...b/c she gets a billion of those "watch out for this scam" emails a day from her friends. I figured she could send an ACTUAL warning out to them for once...and who knows...it might actually do some good. smile
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Feb 28, 2008  at  11:46 AM
I once got scammed by netzero internet providers. I called to cancel my subscription. The rep insisted that he gives me 3 months free service. I insisted that I don't need because I am switching to DSL. Eventually he wins. Then I say but would you cancel the service at the end of the 3 months. He says yes it will automatically cancel. I remember repeating that like 2-3 with him to make sure it will automatically cancel. He says sure.
About 6 months later I noticed a charge of 9.99 on my credit card bill. I checked the last few months and I find out after the free 3 months they have gone back to charging me money. I called and asked for my money back. I even challenged them to listen to any recording that was done during my initial call. I ended up not getting any of my money back (about $30). But at least it got cancelled for sure this time.
Posted by AAB  on  Sat Mar 01, 2008  at  12:21 AM
My 88 year old mother is a victim of the Amerimark Passport to Health scam. She didn't notice on her credit card statement. I have seen anything come in the mail, and I missed it when I did her taxes. They have billing her for $29.99 since late 2005. She never ordered anything from them. Nor can I see where they advertise the service so that she could use anything that they are supposedly offerring. They want the credit charge to the statement to be as quiet as possible, so no one notices that it is there. To me, it looks like a catalogue order. I only caught it this year, when I noticed that it was reoccuring.

I just hate these scams that target the elderly.
Posted by Laurie Sweeney  in  Meadow Vista, CA  on  Sun Mar 02, 2008  at  03:10 PM
If you are from a "liberal" state like NY with an "activist" Attorney General like Andrew Cuomo, that's where to report it.

Also, if you can determine their bank, you can get their credit card privileges revoked if just a few people call to complain of fraud.

Ben
Posted by Ben  in  NY  on  Sun Mar 02, 2008  at  07:51 PM
All scams are pretty scummy but those which target minors or the elderly are extremely unethical.

I mean, people should know where to draw that line. Good that you decided to expose this scam, I just stumbled your post.
Posted by Buy Your Health  in  Delhi  on  Tue May 27, 2008  at  12:20 PM
Man that's sneaky, I would be pretty mad myself. They should tell you these kinds of things up front.
Posted by Patrick  on  Wed Jun 18, 2008  at  11:31 PM
AmeriMark is the name of the actual catalog company. AmeriMark IS Anthony Richards, Beauty Boutique, Carol Wright, Compliments, Dr. Leonard's, Essentials, Feel Good Store, Healthy Living, Time for Me, and last but not least, Windsor Collection.

Primarily AmeriMark is a catalog company. EVERY single order is recorded; this does also pertain to inquiries of and so forth. Sadly, ALL reps are REQUIRED to "pitch" any of the three memberships as they "pop up" on the screen in front of them. The three memberships are PassPort to Health 29.99 monthly, PassPort to Savings 89.99 yearly, and Sentential ID Alert 19.99 monthly.

A horribly long script is read to the customer.
It goes as follows...

"... as a thank you for placing your order with (catalog name) we would like to send you P ($100 Feel Good Store and Time for Me) in catalog coupons to use on your future orders with (catalog name). Along with a trial membership in our (PassPort to Health, PassPort to Savings, or Sentential ID Alert)." (Then a brief de
Posted by AmeriMark EMPLOYEE  in  Cleveland, Ohio  on  Thu Jun 26, 2008  at  01:48 AM
I couldn't agree more. That's just what I was thinking.
Posted by yellow croaker  on  Mon Aug 04, 2008  at  10:52 PM
I wanted to buy from them. Thanks for the warning. Now I shall not be.
Posted by Bruce  in  US  on  Fri Aug 08, 2008  at  05:14 AM
What an awful company! As you say their biggest targets are probably old people and that is really sick. Those people are living off low pensions and can't afford to lose money to scammers. I can't believe even after you said "no" to their passport to health program, they still signed you up. Low lifes. I hope it's a good cushion! LOL
Posted by Catherine  in  Mosman, NSW, Australia  on  Wed Aug 13, 2008  at  04:14 AM
I just found this charge on my credit card statement. $29.99 has been charged to my account since June 2008. I do get almost all of the catalogs mentioned above. I have ordered from them, but did not know or talk to anyone about a membership of any kind (which I would have declined, of course). I had to call the company to find out who the charge was from. The recording said 'Passport to Health', so I started searching for it on the web. Not until I actually typed in AmeriMark did anything come up. That is how I found this site.

My question is how do we report it to the attorny general? I live in Colorado, but registered to vote in Texas. Which state do I use?
Posted by DRyan  in  Fort Carson, Colorado  on  Sat Sep 20, 2008  at  07:01 PM
DRyan -- I'm not sure what state you should use. Or whether it would fall under federal jurisdiction. I think this is how Amerimark continues to get away with what it's doing... because it's difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to challenge them in court.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Sep 22, 2008  at  01:14 PM
Submit those guys to your attorney general, that is a total scam!
Posted by YOR Health  on  Mon Dec 22, 2008  at  07:33 PM
My mother's been victimized twice in as many years by this. The first time, we wrote to VISA about our findings of this scam, and she was credited with some of the money she lost.

Just yesterday, I discovered that she had, again, fallen victim to the AmeriMark jackasses. I instructed her to call them and dispute the charges (nearly $500 since it began again).

She said they were very polite and would refund $179.94, the last six charges. We'll see if that really happens, but in the meantime, we'll be sending VISA another letter, requesting they credit the remaining $213.92 she was charged.

The number she called is 866-345-4401.
Posted by RK  in  West Virigina  on  Fri Dec 26, 2008  at  11:26 AM
You should report them to your state Attorney General's office.

I second that motion!
Posted by shelly  on  Thu Jan 22, 2009  at  10:47 PM
I happen to be an employee that pitches the Passport to Health and Passport to Savings program. While I can see how some would not receive benefits from it. Our calls are monitored and we do state clearly that cards will be charged 29.99 a month with an automatic renewal and also must ask a consent question and receive a clear yes on the program. It is strictly monitored in my opinion and we also do in fact do our best to credit back refunds if a customer decides they do not want the program. I personally loathe having to pitch the program, but it is required for us to pitch and we are very clear about the program and the cost of it.
Posted by Annoyed  on  Fri Jan 23, 2009  at  09:32 PM
My 86 year old parents were also ripped off more than $800 by Amerimark. Thank you Cititbank for reimbursing them. PLEASE, if you were scammed, follow-up with the Ohio Attorney General's office. You can do it online, and here is the link:

http://www.ag4ohio.gov/Public/consumer.aspx?s=209

You will need to know this:

AmeriMark Direct, L.L.C.
Phone: 800-8000200

6864 Engle Road
Cleveland, Ohio, 44130
U.S.A.

I even got a call from the office. PLEASE DO IT!
Posted by Shammy  in  San Antonio  on  Fri May 08, 2009  at  06:58 PM
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