I will freely admit here at the top that I don't pay as close attention to as many of the details of modern life as I should. For instance, I have quite a few of my financial affairs set on autopay autopilot, which opens the door for cascading chaos should something go wrong with my checking account autodeposit.
Unfortunately, this over-reliance on automated payments also opens the door for scams, such as the one described in this recent post by Debbie Wilson on the Gartner Blog Network.
In Wilson's words:
...I opened a letter from the Wall Street Journal. "Renewal Savings Notice," it proclaimed, along with an offer to add a year to my subscription at the wonderful price of $8.49 per week. That's $441.48 per year almost enough money to buy both of my younger sons a season pass at their favorite ski area and nearly three times the amount I paid last December for a year subscription $149.00. (And yes I know this because I tired years ago of publications counting on me to forget that my subscription is not yet up for renewal, to get me to ante up for another year or two of money way ahead of time. I track this stuff.)
Wilson's speculation was that "the WSJ was hoping that I would re-up subscription and just submit the bill to my employer." She also references business class airfare as an area where extreme premiums are routinely applied. However, at least with business class you get a bigger seat -- I for one wouldn't pay a single extra dime for the WSJ's "new features" (some crappy sports coverage and a crossword) much less the 300% markup that Wilson reports.
It all reminds me of another scam I had to endure, where Hilton Hotels tried to sneak about $1000 of false charges onto my hotel bill with the expectation that I'd just pencil-whip the AMEX charges through my T&E system.
Attention to Hilton Hotels, Rupert Murdoch and company: I may live my life on autopay autopilot, but thousands of dollars of bogus hotel charges and shady 300% subscription markups far too much turbulence to go unnoticed even by the likes of me.
Editor's note: Here's the original post, and here's a post in response to an IndustryWeek reader who wrote me after a disturbingly similar situation.
Have you suffered through a scam of this nature? Doublechecking your WSJ bill as we speak? Leave your thoughts and stories in the comments.