TechCrunch: Intelius online people search is a scam


Intelius is the market-leader in online people searches, trawling public records for information. It's headed for a $143m initial public offering. The problem? Its revenue growth is powered by deceptively signing customers up for a useless third party service which bills monthly until you notice it and cancel.

Every time a customer buys a product at Intelius, they are shown a page telling them “Take our 2008 Consumer Credit Survey and claim $10.00 CASH BACK with Privacy Matters Identity.” ... Undoubtedly a lot of consumers do the survey and move forward to the next page - it only takes a second. But what most people don’t do is read the fine print ... in light gray small text, users are told that by taking the survey they are really signing up to a $20/month subscription.

It's the way it's put in hard-to-read gray on gray text that makes it so great–a confession encoded in design principles? Arrington runs the numbers and calculates that without the scam's revenues, Intelius' would barely be growing at all. Why aren't the IPO's organizers noticing this? Would they care if they do?

Naveen Jain’s Latest Scam: Intelius [TechCrunch]

Published by Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.

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  1. Adaptive Marketing
    Our Mission:

    To be the premier Internet marketing company providing consumers with access to savings on valuable and quality products and services through innovative, subscription-based programs< \i>

    Why on earth would anyone want to PAY to have products pushed at them?
    You get that for free all the time!

  2. It’s the same scam for credit report places. Not only that, but it’s the same name- Privacy Matters. Sometimes is 1-2-3 Privacy Matters.
    I had to do a credit check for a landlord recently, and since i otherwise do not use my credit card, i just realized that i have been charged for that lousy company the last year.
    When i finally realized it took some *serious* digging on their site to find not only my ‘selected sign-in name’ (which I obviously have never seen before), password, and then a rigmarole round 3 different sites to finally unsubscribe.

  3. That’s not their only scam. is a useful resource for looking up names, addresses, reverse phone directory etc.
    But with every result you also get an ad from intellius offering you more info on the person you were searching for, for a low low $20.
    But they don’t really necessarily have any actual info – every search gets the same pitch. You can test this by searching for a random string.
    t5%ssw#)klwedxz. OK, no wait, it’s been updated since the last time I tried – you still get an ad for intellius, but it no longer makes the false claim. Still, that’s part of how they built their business.
    Yahoo also promotes the “free credit report” for $20 scam.

  4. The scary thing about is that it currently runs national tv commercial all the damn time. This is a multi million dollar business who’s entire revenue comes from secretly taking peoples $9.95. fucking disgusting.

  5. Anybody who has been taken in by one of these scams really should complain to their State’s Attorney General’s Office.

    I used to work in the consumer protection department of a state dept. of justice, and these complaints receive PERSONAL attention. Each one of them. The DOJ can get you your money back, and they actively try to shut these types down (our law allowed us tens of thousands of dollars in damages per violation, and the ability to exclude the business from operating in our state). But they don’t know it’s happening unless someone complains (and the more complaints the better).

    Don’t bother complaining to the BBB, they’re a joke (the most they can do is forward your complaint to DOJ).

  6. i complained to the BBB regarding freecreditreport and received a 150$ return within a month. this was after i spoke to customer service, they refused a refund. the company has paid out several million dollars in fines.

  7. This company is also working with AP9 and Valuemax to scam people. I was charged $19.95 on 6 different occasions for have ONE $4 phone report!

  8. I was looking for a good site to find people and information. I went on and all I got for my $39.95 was a headache. They don’t do anything they advertise. After writing asking first for support and getting nothing I then went to the IC3 Internet Crime Complint Center to make a report or fraud. After that we called our bank and they gave us the phone number to Clickbank who is the ones who took the money our of our account. The Number is 208-345-4245 they have assured us our money will be back in our bank within 24 hours! I’ll let you know!!
    I would still like to find a dependable search site for records.

  9. I used Intelius for one time transaction just to find a person and the tool is very much user-friendly and easy to navigate. The service fee was charged yet I received an additional $20 charge several weeks later saying I have also purchased a “Identity Protection Package” which I have never authorized this transaction and the order has never shown in my first transaction.
    I called the customer service and it took me about an hour to get through; their customer service rep responded my dissatisfaction with “there’s nothing we can do because it comes along with your first people search purchase; therefore we cannot offer any refund.” The ridiculous thing is, this identity protection has a totally different order number and if what he said is true, why I did NOT see any indication of this additional charge when I purchased their service the first time!?
    Their search tool may be useful, but I am very disappointed about how they used my account info and charge me for something I have not been notified or aware of – I consider this almost like a deceit rubbing customers’ money & rights.

  10. I just found out that Intelius has been charging my credit card $19.95 every month since April under AP9PMIDENTITY.COM. Like everyone else I was furious, but my credit card company was able to connect me to one of their offices called “Privacy Matters.” I spoke to a representative and told him I never authorized any of these charges. He looked up my account by my credit card number and said he would reverse all the charges. Two days later all the charges were credited back to my account. Good luck.

    Privacy Matters (800)436-0817

  11. On Nov. 5, 2008 i authorized a purchase from Itelius in the amount of 1.95 and 12.90. Since than you have charged my account for 19.95 in November, December, January, and February. those additional charges were not authorized, or wanted. I wrote you before without result. If you don ‘t stop, i will send all the information to the attorney General.

  12. Yeah, I got the same page too and wary of the shiny red button and the fine print, I reviewed it all. I caught the part about the 20 dollar monthly fee and so I hit decline and it continued to my report. I just put this in, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see if I dodged the bullet.

  13. Just want to say that it doesn’t matter whether you take the survey or not. I selected no and know I never agreed to buy anything except that $0.95 report. Seems that they get you coming and going. Scumbags!

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