MyLife.com Accused of Running 'Spam-and-Scam' Scheme

mylife.com complaints people searchMyLife.com, a social networking site that bills itself as "America's #1 People Search," is facing a class-action suit accusing the site of spamming, scamming and hacking the address books of millions of consumers.

The site, which claims more than 42 million registered users and a database of more than 205 million U.S. profiles, says more than 30 million people use its service every month. It also has been a source of increasing complaints from Consumer Ally readers.According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., MyLife.com lures unsuspecting consumers into responding to spam emails, fools them into signing up for a low-cost membership, overcharges their credit cards and plunders their address books to spam all of their contacts.

"MyLife.com is a scam that begins with a false solicitation telling potential victims that 'someone' is searching for them, and they can find out who by paying a small fee," the suit alleges. "If this ruse succeeds in convincing the victim to provide credit card or other payment information for a 'free trial period' or a low-price membership (eg. $7.95 per month), MyLife then overbills the victim's credit card for a much larger amount, often more than $100."

The suit also says "MyLife provides access to a list of fake names of people supposedly 'searching or you' together with access to a worthless website that is of no conceivable value to anyone."

Online complaint forums such as Complaints Board and Consumer Ally partner SiteJabber are rife with angry stories about consumers who variously describe the site as "a total scam" and "a rip-off. " The suit itself reproduces dozens of these complaints, including this one:
I'm a web developer, and when I saw their commerical, it just didn't add up. I went to the site and put in a fake name like sfsf sdgfsdgf and a real age and zip code, and guess what?! 7 people were searching for sfsf sdgfsdgf!
One of the two plaintiffs, John Clerkin, says he responded to a MyLife.com email and signed up for one month of service for $21.95. Once he learned he didn't know any of the people looking for him, he tried to cancel and discovered he'd been billed $155.40. He claims MyLife refunded him $104.55 but refused to return the remaining $50.85.

The other plaintiff, Veronica Mendedz, says she signed up for a $5 trial subscription, and also realzied no one she knew was searching for her. When she tried to cancel, the suits says, she learned she'd been billed $60, none of which MyLife.com refunded.

"Victims of the ruse then find that MyLife.com hacks into their address books to target their friends, family and other contacts with spam solicitations stating that 'someone' is looking for them," the suit also charges. "This starts the cycle anew by priming the pump with a fresh crop of victims that MyLife.com tricks with false solicitations, overbills, and hacks."

While the MyLife.com Privacy Policy does disclose this practice, it claims to do so only with the user's permission: "At your request we will search your email address book to see if anyone in it is already a Member of MyLife.com. . . Contacts who are not registered Members will receive an email invitation from us on your behalf inviting them to join."

However, a review of MyLife.com on Consumer Ally partner SiteJabber by Linda B. contradicts this statement:
This website sent me an email (supposedly from a friend) and when I completed their little questionnaire, they hacked into my email contact list and sent everyone a message like it was from me (just like the one I received from my friend - which was a scam, too). I called and had them remove me from...their list immediately and told them that I was going to report what they did. I DID NOT give them permission to use my contact list.
Despite 1,208 complaints in the past 36 months, the Better Business Bureau gives MyLife.com, which has been an accredited BBB member since 2003, an A+ rating. (The BBB has been under fire for giving favorable ratings to paying members.)

A MyLife.com spokesman emailed Consumer Ally the following statement, which was attributed to MyLife.com CEO Jeff Tinsley:

The complaint against us is completely without merit and riddled with errors and misinformation, including mistaking us for a primary competitor. To set the record straight, MyLife.com has never been part of or in any way associated with Classmates.com -- just one of countless examples that shows the complaint lacks all credibility. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously from this frivolous suit.

The suit does allege that Classmates.com was run by Tinsley and subsequently renamed as MyLife.com -- which was in fact formerly known as Reunion.com. Classmates.com has since been rebranded as Memory Lane.

The suit also says credit card companies such as Visa and American Express have been inundated with so many calls from customers demanding refunds that "To them, the name MyLife.com is synonymous with billing fraud."

Visa and American Express did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The class action, which was filed by one of the law firms suing AT&T for iPhone and iPad overcharges, seeks damages, restitution and disgorgement of all revenues and profits.

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