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A Billing Scam by proXPN?

securitynow

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Security Now, a TWiT show. Every one of these shows (as well as many of the shows on the TWiT network) finds me learning a great deal that I use personally, for my company, or my own “Security Tip of the Week” on the Minnov8 Gang Podcast. To say I find Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte knowledgeable, trustworthy and reliable is an understatement — and I’ve taken to extending those feelings to their advertisers — since Leo continually touts the fact that he only supports advertisers he vets and actually uses.

proxpn-logoBut I think these guys either had a lapse when it comes to the VPN provider proXPN, or they have never signed up for a trial period with this vendor and then tried to cancel the account during that trial period (which I now suggest they have a TWiT staffer do for EVERY potential advertiser).

A ‘SCAM’?
Making it hard to cancel is the oldest trick in the book to get some percentage of people to pay when you charge their credit card immediately and then make them jump through a bunch of hoops to cancel and get a refund. Here is what happened and why I strongly caution you to consider another vendor for your VPN services

  • On Leo and Steve’s continual glowing recommendation of proXPN, I signup for the 7-day trial on Friday, August 2nd
  • After using the service I determine it is far too slow for my needs and decide to cancel on Wednesday, August 7th — the sixth day of the seven day trial
  • Logging on to the proXPN “Member Area” I discover there is no way to cancel online. In proXPN’s terms of service it states:

“proXPN extends a 7-day risk-free trial to all new proXPN Premium Accounts. To prevent fraud, we charge your PayPal account or credit card immediately. However, within 7 days of ordering, you can request a full refund through our customer support helpdesk – no questions asked. Please note: this trial is available to new users of proXPN only.”

  • I open a support ticket on August 7th saying I do indeed want to cancel my account…and hear nothing.
  • Finally having time today to followup on several business items like this one, I reluctantly log in to the proXPN “Member Area” in order to see what the status of my support ticket is (and I say “reluctantly” since logging in sometimes “reactivates” an account and starts a new billing cycle). I’m chagrined to see this status (click for larger view) and that my status is set to “Customer-Reply” meaning they must have sent me an email:

proxpn-support 

  • Rolling my eyes and thinking, “Shit…I sure hope this is not yet another unethical company” I go and dig through my spam folder to see if there are any emails from them (and I get hundreds of spam emails per day that end up in there). To my dismay I finally uncover a reply from proXPN support that turns out to be an “open-ended” email that says:

Hi there -

Is there anything we can do to improve your experience? We like to keep our customers happy and we’d hate to lose you.

Best regards,
Team proXPN

———————————————-
Ticket ID: #772556
Subject: Cancel
Status: Answered
Ticket URL: http://proxpn.com/…. 

  • By asking ME a question and waiting for my response, the ticket remains open. Going back to their Terms of Service I see that, “Refunds are given as per conditions stated above regarding our 7-day risk-free trial. If you request a refund after the 7-day trial period, we cannot issue one.”  Since I requested to cancel my account before the 7-day trial period was up, I should receive a full refund. 

Since proXPN made is so difficult to cancel within their 7-day trial period — and because I have zero trust they will refund my credit card since I requested to “cancel” instead of stating I wanted a “full refund” — I’ve contacted my credit card company and begun the process to dispute the charges since there is no way this company will be my VPN provider after this experience.

Is This a Billing Scam by proXPN? I think “yes” in the same way that AOL made it extremely hard to cancel (mandatory 45 minute hold time if a customer called in to cancel) and AOL was sued and paid $3M in fines.   

The other thing is this: I’ll undoubtedly never sign up for a service touted by anyone, even people I used to implicitly trust like Leo and Steve.


UPDATE: Perhaps coincidence (been tweeting to @proXPN) but just received this from their billing support:

Your cancellation and refund request has been submitted and is in process. Please allow up to ten business days for your refund to post to your account. Your satisfaction is truly important to us, so please let us know if there’s anything further we can do to assist you.

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

Comments

  1. I was considering giving them a spin… Looks like their back end systems and core operations systems need some attention.

  2. That is why I use VPN4ALL the servers are very fast and they use OpenVPN. I have yet to be disappointed!

  3. Steve uses his own FreeBSD OpenVPN at his office and Level 3 and has even said in his newsgroups that he hasn’t used ProXPN. Shame really because it would probably stop Leo from pronouncing it Steve approved.

    I agree it’s slow and the free version does nothing but try and encourage you to upgrade. Also the Twit offer is US only even though SN is viewed world wide.

  4. Steve Borsch says:

    Thanks for the extra perspective George…hadn’t heard about his use of OpenVPN. Maybe Leo has given up the purity of “I actually use the product” and has changed that to “Haven’t used it but maybe it makes sense for our audience.”

  5. I just found out for sure that ProXPN is a scam. I’m also an avid listener of the TWiT network of podcasts and decided to try ProXPN. I did the 7 day trial but realized the service was far to slow. I then canceled my account and received a link to verify the cancellation. They reimbursed the money, but a month later I was billed again. I contacted tech support about this and they refused to reimburse the money. Not only that, they downgraded me to a free account so I don’t even get the “pro” features even after the payment.

  6. Steve Borsch says:

    Hey Ryan. Yikes…I’d better check my latest statement to ensure that I, too, wasn’t charged again!

    What a drag. You should ping @SGgrc (Steve Gibson) and @LeoLaporte about this since they need to know what’s going on from someone other than me!

  7. Hi Ryan, I was told you had some issues with proXPN and came here to post about it. We regret losing you as a customer. Would you be so kind to send me your information so I can look into this issue for you? Normally an email in our Members Section would suffice, but I’d like to personally correct any wrong done to you, as we are not a Scam and take our online reputation seriously. You can reach me at anthony at proxpn.com
    Thank you.

  8. These types of problems seem to be very common among VPN providers. I’ve become weary of all of these sleazy operations.

  9. You can head off some problems by using one-time use credit card numbers (via Bank of America or Citibank cards) or PayPal if accepted. That way each renewal is under your control.

  10. I have had the same problem – assumed it was cancelled within the 7 days, but have just noticed two payments have gone through on my credit card.

    I enjoy the TWIT network, but it does look bad on them if they continue to use advertisers like this – the integrity of TWIT is also at stake

  11. With all due respect Tim, you assumed a 7 day free trial that recurs to a monthly subscription automatically cancels even if you don’t take action to cancel it?

    While you may have thought it ends after 7 days, it does not. I’d be more than happy to look into your account, please email me anthony at proxpn dot com.

  12. From what I can see, ProXPN does not have a billing /scam/ going on, but it’s most certainly a billing /scheme/ that strongly disincentivizes cancelling their Pro service.

  13. Keith MacDonald says:

    Another person here who got played by ProXPN. I cancelled the trial over 2 months ago & was just charged for the SECOND time since. I have contacted ProXPN, but expect, like the above poster, to be denied a refund. If this is the kind of company that Leo Laporte has sponsoring TWiT, then I guess I’m done with TWiT…

  14. Hi Keith,

    Would you be so kind to amend your post? As soon as I received your email regarding your issue, I refunded you your full amount that was charged due to Auto Billing. While I fully understand your frustrations, we follow Paypal’s guidelines when it comes to cancelling services. proXPN does not have access to your Paypal account to cancel your subscription for you, that’s why we send you a link in email with directions on how to cancel inside Paypal. I believe that everyone should voice their issues publicly if they believe they are being taken advantage of, but in this case, we followed all guidelines set forth by our Processor, Paypal by sending you the directions, and a link to cancel your subscription. Thank you for your business.

  15. Hi Jason, y

    If you had any issues with any billing with proXPN, you can simply email me your information and I’ll look into it. Anthony at Proxpn.com

    Thanks.

  16. Daniel Newman says:

    I am normally really carful about signing up for subscriptions because as a designer I don’t get a monthly income, so I never know when things are going to be tight, but with the restrictions placed on the Olympics stream I let my guard down and remembered ProXPN was a twit sponsor. I had the form filled out on there website with my finger on the trigger but I forgot the promo code, and found this when I did a good search for it. Man that was a close call. Thanks to you, you really saved my bacon. I will not be creating an account.
    I guess I will just have to watch twitter for my Olympics this year

  17. Jeremy,

    Please contact me via email anthony @ proxpn dot com. I’d like to get to the bottom of your issue. As I’ve mentioned before, we ask all of our clients if there’s anything we can do to keep them on with us. There’s nothing wrong with asking. However once you tell us no, we cancel and refund promptly. I’ll be waiting for your reply. Thanks.

  18. Thanks for all the information, I was looking to start an account due to my current VPN service being down due to technical issues but after reading this I’m not going to bother!

  19. I’ve been using the full version for about a month and couldn’t be more pleased with the reliability and speed. I’m at the port Orleans Disney resort connected via proXPN on an iPad connected to my home computer that is also connected via proXPN on utorrent @ about 10 MB down 1 up my home computer which has only disconnected when I did it. I found all of the trial VPN not to my liking including proXPN and when I checked prices $10 per month is too much for the service in my opinion. When you pay with a cc it’s simple call the vendor tell them your not happy give them 7-10 days to reverse charges if they don’t call your cc company dispute charges

  20. becky waters says:

    I didn’t cancel because Steve looked into the the technical end and approved it.
    However, I have noticed that on quite a few occasions, I believed I was connected to their server (proXPN), but was not. Their interface said I was connected and even listed the IP address of the server which I was connected to. Also, the little lock in the system tray was green.
    But after doing an ipconfig, I realized I still had my real IP. Also, I checked with Shields Up and
    saw that my IP is my real one. You can’t trust that you are really protected without double checking–this is just wrong.
    I contacted tech support, but I should have just saved my breath. They told my to change my DNS servers to Google’s and turn off my firewall–did not like that at all.
    I just gave up with them.

  21. My trial speed was also slow and I hoped that paid service would be faster. And it is, plenty fast for my needs.

    I also don’t like automatic renewal and cancellation problems, so I gave the service provider a one-time-use credit card number. They look exactly like a physical card number. Depending on how you configure it, it can be extended or cancelled by YOU the creator at any time. That can avoid any need to dispute a charge – just notify the service provider you cancel their service, then cancel the number. No more automatic re-charges.

    You may be able to do something similar with gift cards that act as debit cards.

  22. Have used ProXPN for about 2 yrs. Have never had any problems with them or their service, Download speeds are great! Customer service is satisfactory. I would and do recommend ProXPN to my friends and family. I won’t surf the web with-out them…

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