Idaho teacher victim of Internet scam

THURSDAY, JAN. 28, 2010, 3:45 P.M.

A first-grade teacher in Hayden Lake is among hundreds of consumers scammed by an Illinois company that continues tapping their checking accounts long after they have paid for products ordered over the Internet.

Sarah King, who teaches at Hayden Meadows Elementary School, said she found a set of four posters she liked on Facebook last fall and placed her order with The price was $14.95, which was an introductory offer for a $32.95 per-month subscription service that would deliver a new poster each month if she did not cancel within 30 days.

She paid with a debit card, received the posters five days later, and immediately canceled, King said.

But a bank statement she received a few weeks later showed a series of $79 charges every other day from, as well as other companies, she said.

King said she called to affirm the cancellation and request a refund. She was told the problem would be taken care of.

“Sure enough, two days later there are more charges,” King said.

When two more calls proved futile, she went to the Better Business Bureau, where she discovered was just one of 20 companies using Illinois-based Peel Inc. to process their transactions. Some companies are independent, some are Peel affiliates.

It was Peel that was debiting her account, she said.

In December, the BBB for Chicago and Northern Illinois hung an “F” rating on Peel based on almost 3,000 complaints filed in the previous three years. Almost one-fourth, most regarding billing or refund issues, remained unresolved, said Steve Bernas, president of the Chicago organization.

He said Peel has stopped taking orders. But the company is severely understaffed, and more complaints are going unresolved, he said.

King said she had to close her debit card account when she filed a fraudulent charges report with Visa, which covered two of the charges. Peel returned another two after she contacted the BBB, she said, but she will have to eat about $300 of the $500 Peel and its affiliates took from her account.

“Filing a report with the BBB was the only thing that actually grabbed the attention of the company,” King said.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has started an investigation of Peel, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said today.

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