Disclosure notices on websites, advertisements and in the terms of an agreement when making a product purchase are often complicated and confusing. Companies know this and take advantage of consumers, figuring potential purchasers don’t have the time, inclination or knowledge of the legalese that goes along with the fine print. Embedded deeply in the disclosure is the exact nature of credit card charges—and really, has anyone ever read that? My best guestimate is that 95 percent of the population hasn’t, which is why 95 percent of unwanted credit card charges are considered “grey charges.”

Because the legalese spells it all out (and trusting consumers sign on the dotted line),grey charges are not illegal—which by default makes them legal. However you slice it, I’m sure we can all agree that grey charges are upsetting, sleazy, sneaky and deceptive. More than once I’ve yelled and screamed at a customer service representative who gave me a million reasons under the sun as to why I wasn’t entitled to a reversed charge on my credit card. Grey charges cost more than time and money; they also cost users personally through the very expensive commodity of emotional bandwidth.

Companies exercising their grey charge rights (however wrong they may seem to the rest of us) are well-known legal entities that many of us do business with every day. They make billions of dollars confusing and deceiving customers into paying, and consumers are mostly uninformed—until now.

Companies engaged in this behavior know levying grey charges is legal, but unethical. But when they are making so much money, they aren’t about to stop. Consumers are ultimately responsible for checking their credit card statements and looking for grey charges. But according to BillGuard, few credit card holders—1 in 10—rarely, if ever, look at their statements.

Don’t get taken! Here’s how to outwit the grey chargers:

  • Scrutinize your statements carefully
  • Demand refunds when grey charges occur
  • Threaten a “chargeback,” which is a transaction in which a bank pulls money back out of a merchant’s account
  • Get BillGuard to do all the worrying for you—and get back your peace of mind

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

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