Over two years ago, the seemingly popular website was sued for telling consumers that “former classmates are trying to contact you! Upgrade now to see their messages!”
When plaintiff Anthony Michaels bought the line and paid to upgrade from his free membership to a “Gold” one -- the only way that he would be allowed to respond to whoever was waiting for him -- he quickly discovered that, in fact, no one was waiting for him.
Michaels filed suit, accusing the site of making “false representations regarding the attempted contacts.” The action settled last March, with Classmates agreeing to pay out $9.5 million, up to $3 to each affected consumer.
But now, a new class action complaint claims that MyLife.com -- whose trademarked slogan is “Who's Searching for You” -- is just the latest incarnation of the stubborn Classmates scam.
The suit, filed last week in a California federal court, says that MyLife CEO Jeffrey Tinsley “has been running essentially the same spam-and-scam operations since at least 2002, when he founded the company under the name Reunion.com. The company later operated using the names Wink.com and Classmates.com, before taking on its latest alias, MyLife.com, in February 2009. False solicitations that 'someone' is looking for you have been the core of the business plan for these entities for some time,” according to the complaint.
Veronica Mendez, one of the suit's lead plaintiffs, had an experience similar to that of Michaels. Last year, according to the suit, Mendez “received an e-mail from MyLife stating that people were searching for her ... She signed up for a trial subscription with MyLife for $5.00. Rather than charging her $5.00, however, MyLife charged her $60.00,” according to the suit.
Lead plaintiff John Clerkin signed up for MyLife for one month, thinking he would be charged $21.95. Once Clerkin learned that he, too, was not a hot search topic for other MyLife users, he “sought to cancel the service and learned that he had been charged $155.40.” He demanded a refund, but only received $104.55 back from the website, the suit alleges.
Suit cites “cycle of fraud”
Tinsley, who is a self-proclaimed “serial internet entrepreneur,” allegedly rebranded Classmates as MyLife in February 2009, shortly after Michaels's suit had been filed.
The suit alleges that “individual victims of the MyLife scam are generally cheated out of roughly $90 to $190 at a time.” A diagram included in the complaint depicts a three-part “cycle of fraud” allegedly employed by MyLife: first the company provides a “false solicitation that 'someone' is looking for you, find out who for a small fee”; then it “overbill[s] victim's account for a much larger fee [than indicated], often more than $100”; and finally, it “hack[s] victim's address book to identify new targets for false solicitations.”
The suit says that credit card companies are onto MyLife's scheme, having “fielded thousands of complaints about MyLife and its fraudulent billing practices. As a result, some, including Visa and American Express, have designated MyLife as a frequent offender whose charges are inherently suspect,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction ordering MyLife to “immediately cease the improper billing of data usage.”
As is the case with Classmates.com, ConsumerAffairs has no shortage of complaints about MyLife.com.
William of Virginia Beach, Va. echoes the allegations made in the suit:
“The website is misleading. It is a scam with no refunds. $12.95/mo doesn't sound so bad until they bill you for an entire year at $155.00 with no refunds, no cancellations. I've read many complaints about this company and my credit card is disputing the charge. It's a scam...don't fall for it.....”
Yolanda of Fayeteville, NC had a similar experience:
“Advertised to join would only be something like $19.95, but after I joined my credit card was charged $155.40! When I called the number to remove the account, I was told I could not get a refund and that the website states this. I called within 15 minutes of the transaction.”