Shoppers club lures consumers with gift card bait-and-switch

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Remember this rule: If you have to pay something up front to collect a "prize" you supposedly "won," the Better Business Bureau warns it's most likely a scam.

Remember this company's name: Smart Shoppers of Phoenix, Arizona, aka Smart Shopper. Then remember what happened to Whitehaven's Priscilla Campbell.

Campbell opened her mailbox to find a solicitation from Smart Shoppers. It said she had won a $100 gift card from either Walmart or Target. All she had to do was call the number and charge $4.95 to her debit card as a fee to score the gift card.

Her first thought was her sister Shereka, a single mom of four.

"I was like, OK, let me get the gift card for her so I could give her the $100 to get some food for my niece and nephews," Campbell said. So she called and gave up her debit card number.

Bait cast. Bait taken.

That was nearly a month ago.

"I don't get the gift card. I don't get anything," she said.

WMC Action News 5 Investigators discovered Smart Shoppers' gift card solicitation is designed to lure consumers into joining a shopper's club. According to its website, Smart Shoppers offers a shopping membership that lets you buy goods from top retailers at discount prices. But the site doesn't lists any participating retailers, and it doesn't show any evidence of discounts members will receive.

What you will find on the site is a disclaimer. It indicates the initial fee balloons to a nearly $30 per month subscription--with no guarantee of any discounts and no guarantee of ever getting that "free" $100 gift card.

"It's the lure of free money," said Randy Hutchinson, president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. The bureau gives Smart Shoppers a C+ rating for failing to respond to complaints about its service and solicitation. "Sometimes, people who get these sorts of solicitations may be hurting for money, and it looks like an answer from Heaven."

"I was just trying to do a good deed for my sister," Campbell said. "If I wasn't trying to help her, believe me, I never would have done it."

I was able to get a Smart Shoppers customer service agent on the line. "Lucy" said she would have one of her supervisors call me back about Campbell's "account."

But just like the gift card that Campbell signed up for, the phone call from Lucy's supervisor never came.

So Campbell and the BBB put Smart Shoppers on blast on the BBB's Scam Tracker. Campbell's report, pinpointed on the Scam Tracker's map right in Whitehaven, details her experience and calls Smart Shoppers out for anyone and everyone to see.

"I want to help other people to not get scammed like I did," Campbell said.

Campbell's bank eventually refunded her money and secured her bank from any automatic withdrawals from Smart Shoppers.

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