Grey charge: When you buy something with your credit card and you get charged for something you didn't want. Often a merchant will tack on additional products and services to a legitimate purchase you make, and you "sorta" know about the charge... but not really.
For example, you might be in the process of purchasing something and a pop-up window reading "Get 25 percent off your order NOW! CLICK HERE!" comes up. And in the fine print below "CLICK HERE!" it says, "By getting 25 percent off, you are agreeing to get a free month of a one-year membership to our discount club for which you will be charged $19.95 per month after the first month. You may cancel at any time, but you are required to give us 30 days' notice in writing."
Or something stupid like that.
Then, a couple of months go by and you get your credit card statement and see this charge for $19.95 and wonder what it's for. You call the number on the statement and someone answers and puts you on hold for an hour. By the time you are done yelling and pulling all your hair out of your head, you will probably end up getting charged for two or three months for something you never wanted.
And that's if you even pay attention you your credit card statements, because nine out of 10 people don't check their bills, or merely skim them quickly for large purchases. This is what the scammy merchant bets on when initiating a grey charge.
Is it legal? Well, it's not illegal... but it is sneaky and deceptive.
According to BillGuard's internal research, one in four users has incurred some type of erroneous or deceptive charge in the last 12 months. And among those users who have been affected, the average of these charges is about $350 a year.
So pay attention to your statements and refute unauthorized or grey charges ASAP. And don't forget: Read the fine print -- and remember that any offer that sounds too good to be true is.
Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & adviser to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock'em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.