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 on Tue Feb 26, 2008



Comments

You should report them to your state Attorney General's office.
Posted by Elizabeth  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  04:55 PM
I agree with Elizabeth.

You may also make a cursory call to your local police (non-emergency line, please 😉 ) 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  05:08 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  05:11 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  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  05:23 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  05:26 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  05:27 PM
Isn't "mark" the term used by con men to refer to their victims?

How appropriate.

J/P=?
Posted by John Paradox  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  06:13 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  06:40 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  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  09:32 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  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  11:08 PM
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  on  Wed Feb 27, 2008  at  09:50 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  on  Wed Feb 27, 2008  at  12:21 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  03:08 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. 😊
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Feb 28, 2008  at  09:46 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  Fri Feb 29, 2008  at  10:21 PM
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  on  Sun Mar 02, 2008  at  01:10 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  on  Sun Mar 02, 2008  at  05:51 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  on  Tue May 27, 2008  at  10:20 AM
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  09:31 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  on  Wed Jun 25, 2008  at  11:48 PM
I couldn't agree more. That's just what I was thinking.
Posted by yellow croaker  on  Mon Aug 04, 2008  at  08:52 PM
I wanted to buy from them. Thanks for the warning. Now I shall not be.
Posted by Bruce  on  Fri Aug 08, 2008  at  03:14 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  on  Wed Aug 13, 2008  at  02:14 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  on  Sat Sep 20, 2008  at  05:01 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  11:14 AM
Submit those guys to your attorney general, that is a total scam!
Posted by YOR Health  on  Mon Dec 22, 2008  at  05:33 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  on  Fri Dec 26, 2008  at  09:26 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  08:47 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  07:32 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  on  Fri May 08, 2009  at  04:58 PM
I agree with Elizabeth too.
Posted by Lida  on  Wed May 20, 2009  at  02:19 AM
I understand being upset when you are coerced and harassed. But I work for the company and there is a specific script we must follow, and the person must say yes or okay to our question specifically asking if they want it. And then they have to verify their credit card number. Most people just forget they agree to it because they only do to get us off of the phone.
Posted by Employee  on  Thu Jul 09, 2009  at  11:02 AM
Employee: I can assure you I clearly said no when asked if I wanted to enroll in the passport-to-health program. And yet, I was enrolled in it anyway.

However, the call began by asking me to "verify" my name and address, to which I said yes.

So they had me on tape saying yes to something, and apparently they figured that was good enough to warrant signing me up.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Jul 09, 2009  at  11:20 AM
Ahhh somebody may get the PASSPORT to Health (^_^)...
Posted by Diet Plan  on  Fri Jul 24, 2009  at  05:25 AM
I just got a bill from AmeriMark Permier and I don't know what is the item i got in the first place. I am looking all over the net to get my statement online and the costomer service didn't take my information some about integer--what the hell is that. I will be calling them on Monday and figure all this out. Thank you all for the warning about there spam.
J. Gargano
Posted by Gargano1965  on  Sun Sep 13, 2009  at  08:06 AM
Attorney General's office for sure!
Posted by Lisp Speech  on  Sat Oct 03, 2009  at  10:12 AM
Amerimark is not scamming anyone. I work for this company and pitch this program all day long. They do pitch it to the elderly, but they dont target them. The elderly call us. We offer them $50 in FREE CATALOG COUPONS for trying the program. They are FREE TO CANCEL AT ANY TIME DURING THE FREE TRIAL and NEVER BE CHARGED! Just because people sign up for the program for the free coupons, does not mean we are scamming anyone. They should remeber to cancel it, they can even cancel right when they get it and STILL GET TO KEEP THE COUPONS! All calls are recorded and monitored by supervisors. If we fail to mention ANY legel issues or disclaimers we are punished, and punished very strickly. Just because we are offering a FREE TRIAL PROGRAM does not give them the right to forget about it, we tell them THEY HAVE TO CALL AND CANCEL IF THEY DONT WANT TO BE CHARGED. They could simply just say no and recieve nothing at all and would have never been signed up. Get your stories stright people!
Posted by Clint Curry  on  Tue Nov 03, 2009  at  03:18 PM
today they got me as well i just notified my bank.im so confussed they dont send any information you're just someone giving them money.
Posted by SHARRON EDMONDS  on  Tue Dec 22, 2009  at  03:25 PM
I don't actually work FOR Amerimark,I take orders for Carol Wright Gifts and Dr. Leonard's Healthcare and I pitch the Passport to Health Program.
This is the thing, just like the other reps have said; we have a set of VERY strict guidelines that we MUST follow when making the coupon/program trial offer.-Statements in quotations have to be given verbatim otherwise even if our customer wants the program, we won't send it)
We have inform the customer that the program is only free for the first '45 days from today' (the day they accept the offer) and that after that, if they don't call to cancel, their debit or credit card is billed the program price which is '$29.99 each month with an automatic renewal'.
We also inform our customers that they are welcome and ENCOURAGED to 'call and cancel the program at ANY time within those first 45 days and never be billed.'
AND we give our customers the phone number to call and cancel as well as letting them know that it IS in the information packet in several places, and that they are welcome to call and cancel as soon as the same day that their information and coupons arrive if they want to.
After we go through ALL of that information, we MUST ask the customer if it's okay to send them the passport to health 'packet/program/membership' and coupons, and we have to get a clear 'yes', 'ok', 'that's fine', etc.
AND THEN we ask the customer to verify the last four digits of the card that they used for the order to remind them which card would be used if they kept the program. After that, we remind them AGAIN that 'the account will be charged monthly unless you call to cancel'. And let the customer know when they will get their packet and what it looks like.
If we don't obey the compliance guidelines, a.k.a. give those statements in quotations verbatim, they don't send the packet out, we don't get any credit for the sale, and if it happens more than a couple of times, we get fired.
The thing is that customers DON'T LISTEN, and I understand, it's a big, long, boring pitch, but Why on Earth would you agree to something involving your charge card if you don't understand/weren't paying attention.
And in the end, if a customer forgets to cancel or doesn't remember accepting it and ends up being charged, all they have to do is call us back and let Cust.Svc know that they didn't actually WANT the program, we'll happily refund the customer for each month they were charged and cancel the program so they don't get billed again.
So yeah...It's a stupid program, not everyone can use it, and it's really expensive to continue it after the trial, but we do let our customers everything they need to know about the program, we try to MAKE SURE that they comprehend and want the program. AND in the end we refund them if they forget to cancel and actually get billed!
There's no 'rip-off' on our part here, just inattention and over-reaction on some of our customers' part.
Posted by PayAttention  on  Tue Jan 19, 2010  at  01:36 AM
Keep in mind that the people on the other end of the phone are only as good as the ethic that manages them. We all seem to find fault in the process but we all fail to do due diligence on the job but love to point the finger elsewhere - the program is not a scam but most likely the person who took the call would be better off on welfare...oops that would put skill and conscience and other like kind attributes ahead of what you like to drink after hours and listen to on the radio
Posted by B Better  on  Mon Feb 08, 2010  at  07:48 PM
I also pitch the Passport to Health program. And would like to add to the comment about how the problem is that people just don't listen to us. Also when the charge comes up on their charge card, the 800 number to cancel is ON that statement. So how it gets past the first charge is again people not paying attention. And we do in fact credit back these charges if we are asked to do so!
Posted by Employee  on  Wed Feb 10, 2010  at  11:28 AM
if you are from a liberal state like NY with an "activist" Attorney General like Andrew Cuomo that's where to report it.
Posted by nedenleri  on  Wed Feb 24, 2010  at  03:02 AM
Thanks for the information. It is necessary to take into consideration.
Posted by Leonid  on  Sat Feb 27, 2010  at  08:47 AM
Thanks for the information.
Posted by 3khomebase  on  Wed Mar 17, 2010  at  03:04 AM
Is their "Passport to Health" program works? How about results?
Posted by Dave  on  Wed Mar 17, 2010  at  04:05 PM
Go to the press and reveal their hoax, people will notice and stop buying from Amerimark. With news out, All relevant authorities will jump to tackle this issue.
Posted by rickkgoh  on  Mon Mar 22, 2010  at  02:25 AM
the great post on Passport to Health program. The government is doing great job and hope they will continue.
Posted by Akash Patel  on  Mon Apr 05, 2010  at  12:08 PM
In solidarity with many here speak. With this kind of fraud must be combated by all possible methods and means. Otherwise, they will enjoy our inaction and to continue to deceive other people.
Posted by Merkuriya  on  Tue Apr 20, 2010  at  12:07 PM
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 Biber Hapi  on  Fri Apr 23, 2010  at  04:58 AM
I ordered a pair of shoes from Amerimark. I noticed that 29.99 had been taken out of my checking account the last two months. I was told by Amerimark that a few days after my order was placed they called with the health care plan. I told them this never happened and I wanted my name removed and to put the money back into my checking account. That was yesterday. This morning the money has been returned.
Posted by Ron  on  Wed Apr 28, 2010  at  07:31 AM
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