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Is MyLife.com a scam? Site makes you pay to find friends, then makes your life hell

We lead so much of our lives on the Internet today that it’s easy to get sucked in by online scams: MyLife.com is potentially one of them, according to a new lawsuit filed this year against the social networking site. According to the suit, filed in February in California, where the Web company’s headquarters are based, MyLife.com is a bait-and-switch marketing ripoff  that hacks into your e-mail address book, grabs contacts of your friends and family, overbills your credit card and can make your life hell.

I was watching the last Superbowl on television when I saw MyLife.com advertise that “people” out there were looking for me, that MyLife would somehow help me connect with old friends. I was curious, nostalgic, and in the era of Facebook and instant communication, too trusting. I logged on to the website (www.mylife.com) and MyLife.com prompted me to look for “friends” who were looking for me—but I had to hand over payment first.

I was about to type in my credit card information and did a gut check—realizing that I could find these people for free on plenty of other social networking websites. I thought better of it and logged off. Too bad so many others didn’t—and now some of them are suing MyLife.com for invasion of privacy and hundreds of dollars a year they were allegedly overbilled.

MyLife.com bills itself as “America’s #1 People Search,” but is now facing a class-action suit in which users are accusing the site of spamming them and their friends, scamming them for money and hacking the address books of millions of subscribers.

The site, which claims more than 50 million registered members and a database of more than 205 million United States persons’ profiles, says more than 2 million people are added to its service every month. Yet it has also has been a source of increasing complaints from consumers.

According to the MyLife class action suit, filed in District Court in California, MyLife.com lures unsuspecting consumers into responding to spam emails from “friends” who are looking for them, then fools them into signing up for a low-cost membership for one month, then overcharges their credit cards by charging them for an entire year. Then MyLife allegedly plunders your e-mail address books to spam all of your contacts.

The suit makes for incredible reading.

“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 reads (again, a full copy of the suit can be read at this link  http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/02/08/MyLife.pdf ). “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 for you’ together with access to a worthless website.”

Online complaint forums such as Complaints Board, Ripoff Report and Consumer Ally are filled with frustrating stories by consumers who describe the site as “a total scam” and “a rip-off.” YouTube even has videos reviewing how the site works, luring potential member into parting with their financial information for a questionable database (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAosamXDINQ).

One of the two plaintiffs in the California lawsuit, John Clerkin, 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 instead. He claims in the suit that MyLife refunded him $104.55 but refused to return the remaining $50.85.

The other plaintiff, Veronica Mendez, signed up for a $5 trial subscription, and also realized no one she knew was searching for her. When she tried to cancel, the suit 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.”

Financial lesson learned? Beware handing over your precious credit card information to websites out of nostalgia, loneliness or curiousity–because even if what MyLife or other do is unethical, it’s not clear until suits like these go to trial that it’s illegal.

In the user agreement, MyLife.com explicitly states: “you are licensing to MyLife.com and our third-party service providers any content you provide through or to MyLife.com and the service they offer. By submitting content, you automatically agree, or promise…MyLife.com and anyone they permit may reproduce, display, distribute, and create new works of authorship based on and including the content.”

Translated into English from legalese, this is the worst part: MyLife.com sells your information to third parties, which then start billing you as well. According to one user: “The next thing that happens is that your credit card starts getting hit by a company called MVQ*SAVEACE. When you call to find out who these people are they tell you that you have a membership with them too! They have absolutely no product except billing your credit card without authorization.”

So guess where they got your name, address, email address, and credit card info from? You guessed it: MyLife gave it to them. Cancel your card, have fraudulent charges reversed and beware of this company. According to the lawsuit: “They survive on your bad decision to become a premium member. They are silver tongued devils.” MyLife.com founder Jeff Tinsley did not return phone calls or email for comment.

Tinsley is also founder of Reunion.com and Classmates.com, which in 2010 settled a similar class action suit for $9.5 million that accused the social networking site of using false emails to get people to pay for premium memberships.

What about the Better Business Bureau? This is what the BBB in Los Angeles complaint board has to say about MyLife.com, which it gives an “A+” rating: “Complainants generally allege that the company automatically renews memberships and debits accounts. Some customers report signing up for the service based on a low monthly rate but are charged for a non-refundable yearly or a lesser term subscription up-front. In some cases, complainants are dissatisfied that their information is posted on the company’s website and request its removal. The company generally responds by providing refunds and states that accounts are set to auto-renew at the end of the subscription term, unless the customer disables the auto-renew feature before the renewal is processed. In response to the amount of the charges, they state that customers signed up for a term account with a monthly subscription rate billed up-front for the entire term and is listed in several places on the order page. The company promptly removes profiles when requested and also states that the information was gathered from public sources.”

Sounds like a circle of hell to me. Avoid signing up for MyLife.com or social networks that make you—the consumer—pay them to build their own database.

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41 responses

  1. JCW

    I’m John Clerkin and I enjoyed your blog post. Worth a mention that these folks are pulling a two for one on consumers: First there’s the classic bait and switch – for free you say? Sure! I’ll check it out…. only to find out that indeed it is NOT free. Then if you’re foolish enough to continue comes the billing fraud.

    Naturally, I should haave done my research prior to responding to their emails and commercials and I would have seen that there are complaints left, right and sideways. Just goes to show that a little time on your hands + boredom can be a really bad combination!

    It is my hope that through this lawsuit Mylife.com will be exposed and driven out of business, and that the thousands of individuals who have been defrauded finally receive the full refunds that they are entitled to.

    June 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    • Jack Schrader

      I, among many, I am sure, was a potential victim too.

      I didn’t get suspicious until two things occurred. First, I emailed a ton of names that were supposed to be in the location of where the person/family lives that I am looking for. Second, I signed on with a limited $30.00 credit card for safety, and only used a small amount to sign on. However, every time I retried that same credit card for what was supposed to be small dollar searches, my card was refused. Then the red flag came up. I can’t believe I was enough of a dummy to sign on at all, but want so much to find this person after 48 years.

      Also, everytime they will make you think you are getting closer to your find, but then what do you see—-blanks for a credit card entry. Surprise, surprise.

      I hate being scammed, and I don’t know how anyone can sleep when they do it. I do have to say, I am way more savvy than I was years back.

      Like was mentioned in the letter above, there are numerous free places to search and also leave messages in case that person you are looking for comes on, such as facebook. I used to hate Facebook because I am so computer illiterate, I could never navigate on it, but I appreciate it after being on that farce of a site.

      Wow! I feel better. Just really do wish I could find this lady I am looking for. Name has probably changed too, making it harder. Oh well, I won’t give up.

      Let’s leave more replies folks!

      July 3, 2011 at 4:12 am

      • Robin F.

        Is there anyway a grieving mother can find the son that no other family or friends can locate without being scammed?

        July 19, 2012 at 12:44 am

      • Robin– if you need help with searches, please let me know and I will do what I can. Reporters can often make phone calls that others can’t. email me: erinarvedlund@yahoo.com

        July 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    • John– Has there been any update to the lawsuit versus MyLife.com? I’d love to find out…

      August 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

  2. John.. great to hear from you! Email me if you’d ever like to chat: erinarvedlund@yahoo.com

    June 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm

  3. Joe

    It’s a scam the company should be shut down and charged for forgery

    August 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

  4. Ann V. Eintner

    I remember when mylife.com originated as highschoolalumni.com back in 1999. It was a great and free way to find and connect with high school friends from your alma mater as well friends from other schools. Jeff Tinsley bought the website in 2002 and changed its format to include resources that would help people locate folks from all chapters of their lives, hence reunion.com. Funny that it seems there is a parallel to the metamorphosis of the website’s contents, the features that were once free vs. what is now only accessible to premium, aka paying members, and even the evolution of Tinsley’s personal life. In the early days, if you checked his reunion.com page, you would view loving, thoughtful photos of and captions regarding his wife and children. The man ultimately became extremely greedy and self-centered; less was available to free members on the reunion.com website and the monthly rates skyrocketed. This was about the time when the hacking of email address books took place as well. It appears that his wedded union sadly fell apart sometime during that era; he replaced his gorgeous, sophisticated wife with some tart who has plastered the internet with photos of herself with barely any clothing to leave much to the imagination. Tinsley’s rise to fortune is not unlike the soaring Icarus, who made his way quickly and successfully, albeit tragically, too close to the sun.

    October 3, 2011 at 6:21 am

  5. mylife3isAscam

    great blog! the link below is for the complaint form @ consumer-action.org. i’d also like to suggest that everyone contact their local news stations to expose mylife’s blatant disregard for one’s right to privacy.

    http://www.consumer-action.org/hotline/complaint_form/

    November 26, 2011 at 10:46 am

  6. James

    Wanted a basic search trial rate for $12.95 for one month ONLY!! They charged for that then claimed that I signed up for a special site that tells you about the people that are looking for you charging me an additional $131.40 on my card with no permission what so ever. I would NEVER OK that amount of money for anything like that.
    When you call them they are so polite as they tell you that you are the one that ordered
    the subscription. As far as I am concerned these people should not be treated with respect when they are getting paychecks from stealing from peoples bank accounts!!
    I dont care how F%$##* polite they are !!!

    January 5, 2012 at 12:17 am

  7. mosanty

    Just got off the phone with the bastards. I never even visited their site or gave them so much as an email and they ran a line of shit. File fraud charges with your state’s attorney general and an attorney immediately. Not as a class action either. That way you can request punitive damages and demand criminal charges as well.

    Am in process of doing so as I write.

    January 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

  8. Class action lawsuits are chalked-up to “cost of doing business” by unscrupulous businesses. What’s needed is for individuals to be sent to prison so that other sleezeballs will know that they will be held personally held accountable for their fraudulent schemes.

    January 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm

  9. Even if you do not give them a credit card good luck getting the mass e-mails to stop entering your mail box.

    February 12, 2012 at 7:50 pm

  10. JT

    Great blog post. I am glad I read this because I was just going to sign-up for the one month only package. But NOT after reading this. I thought this co was so legit they even have a Superbowl commercial. According to My Life, I have 31 people “looking for me.” 20 of which are women within ten years of my age. So, this is all fake? I would love to think I was so popular with women from my past. But, reading this blog post (and helpful comments) popped that bubble.

    February 25, 2012 at 4:11 am

    • JT– thanks, yes the commercials are quite inviting, but the company is counting on that!

      February 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm

  11. Robert C.Wiltgen

    It seems that I too have been “Violated” and it continues,however my credit card co. is well aware of the proplem and does not pay their account from mw account because of “JUST THIS” Notify your credit card co. of this site they will help.Thanx to unity.RCW

    May 15, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    • Robert– any progress on getting your money back?

      July 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

  12. Sandy Kirksey

    I just saw their ad on TV and thought I would look into it (I have been trying 2 get ahold of my ex-husband for over eleven years our only child passed away eleven years ago christmas.) I am a senior citizen and have very little computer knowledge I have had my
    computer only a couple of weeks. I am so glad I read the blog (I guess thats what’s its called) and the reply’s from people, I won’t even go there. Thank you very much.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:58 am

    • Glad to be of help Sandy!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm

  13. Just discovered that I , too, have been sucked in to this apparent scam. Have no recollection of signing up for anything, but was billed $io.39 (Cdn) last month and again this month. Called my creditcard provcider and got the telephone number of the company in CA. Was adviserd that as of Aug.24 my subscription will czancel. Meamtime I am obliged to pay the m0nthoy fee for Aug. Searchng the internet, I came upon your blog. Once bittern twice shy. Wiser and moore thankful for blogs such as yours. Muilton

    August 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    • Milton– thanks for writing to me. the credit card company should stop payment on anything after August. make sure they don’t take advantage of you!! Keep me informed, best, Erin

      August 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

  14. To Erin, what a great service to Humanity, your thread is.
    I stumbled on MyLife today after learning a friend of my wife had passed away. My antivirus ‘WebRep’ Red Flagged the site (thanks, Avast!).
    No surprise to me, as I had purchased a membership September 15, 2008, following a shooting death, as outlined below. the site functioned admirably for the first few days, then began to block out any hope of closing in on the status of our dear friend. To this day my wife and I are tormented by the mystery of what has become of her.

    On September 10, 2009, I wrote:
    “It is ridiculous to expect that I would even for a moment consider renewing my ‘premium’ membership, since from the beginning I have been blocked from all but the most basic utilities, all the while being solicited to ‘see how’ I could access more features. A number of my friends who were at one time or another subscribers, must have been similarly frustrated, as they never responded to my ‘e-mail’ inquiries, nor showed any evidence of activity on your site. The most horrible part of the whole thing is that I payed to get access in a desperate attempt to find our friend, the wife of a man who was shot and killed last September. What cruel torment it has been to not know of her whereabouts or how she has managed over these months, to be taunted that if only I would pay more, there might be a chance of making the connection. It saddens me that your profit generating machine has no sense of the tactility of the real world, filled with feeling, thinking, living and dying human beings.
    Have a Rich and Happy Life,
    Robert Taylor”

    And on the 11th, I received from MyLife.com:
    Dear Robert,
    Thank you for contacting MyLife.com Customer Care. We appreciate your interest in improving our product offerings. We will forward your suggestions to the department manager and if he deems it necessary he will at that time take further measures regarding where the development of our service is headed.

    Please keep an eye out on MyLife.com for your suggestion to become a new service or feature of MyLife.com.

    Sincerely,
    Stefanie
    MyLife.com Customer Care

    In light of everything I have read today, I suppose I should go back through my bank statements and see what has been done to us, but none of that seems to matter in the face the heartbreak we still endure.

    I weep now, in this moment, for the ‘grieving mother’ (reference above, July 19, 2012) who needs to know.

    It fills me with horror and rage that this…..specimen, this Homo Sapiens, the ‘Paragon of Animals’ roams the earth preying upon those whom he may, imprisonment must be his only reward. I have nothing else to say.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:01 am

  15. employee A

    I wish I knew how to start a blog so I could inform the whole world about Mylife.com. I was fortunate enough not to get scamed but unfortunately I was the one scamming people. I use to work for Alta resources which is a company that mylife.com hires to be their call center. So the people that answer the phones when you call to inquire about the product or charge are not even employees of mylife.com. They are employees of Alta, slaves of mylife.com, their biggest clients. They are all super young college students who really don’t care if you get scamed or not. I would speak up to my supervisors and say this is wrong we are tricking people and stealing their money by the minute, but it was not their problem we just worked for the client so we followed policy. The people on the emails that are claimed to be searching for you, well they really are real people whether they put in a fake name or not is on them. But the system let’s every john smith know that Jane doe was searching for that name not necessarly you. That is how they lure you in. Line’em and hook em and eventually sink ya. There is so much more I would love to say. I was hoping this lawsuit would take off in full effect for the nation to see but it is not getting much attention. We need to change that. Bottom line when you call demand a refund for as far back as you can. If they say oh sorry ma’am we can’t refund you that far back its a lie….just say any of these magic words. BETTER BUSINESS BUREU, ATTORNEY GENERAL OR DISPUTE WITH MY CREDIT CARD COMPANY. PLEASE stay away from the site Don’t even pull up the website they have a new system that will make mylife your homepage and if you log in even one time it will log you in automatically because it’s set to remember. They take advantage of older people who are not computer savy and their fine print is their secret weapon. If you have questions I’m happy to answer!

    August 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

  16. Pingback: SMB SEO| Does my company need a MyLife account? | SMB SEO Dallas Internet Marketing Agency | Local SEO Services Firm and PPC Management Consultants

  17. I called to use that service and was told one price, but I
    HAD to have a prepaid credit card. But when I called back
    I was told it was more than I was told less then a hour before.

    November 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    • Dale–They are masters of manipulation. avoid! 🙂

      November 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm

  18. Stephen

    I signed up today (no pay) with a fake account and name (unbelievably fake) and they told me there are 19 people looking for me! LOL!

    March 23, 2013 at 5:04 am

    • good tactic! Plat them with their own rules

      March 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm

  19. spclk

    So how do we shut them down? How do we make them PAY!

    June 14, 2013 at 4:21 am

    • Filing complaints with your local Better Business Bureau, blogging about them, and contacting your state attorney general… all good starts!

      June 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm

  20. William J. McIntyre

    I did a search with Peoplefinder several years ago. I didn’t even realize it was affiliated with My Life. Yesterday I called my credit card company to dispute billings on August 23 for $83.40 for My Life Peoplesearch and $131.40 for My Life WSFY (Who’s Searching For You) Search. I was connected with a My Life representative who informed me that these were annual membership fees that I had agreed to when I did my search several years ago. At my request he canceled my membership. He offered to reduce the billing for these annual membership fees I was not going to be using by 50% if I would cancel the dispute over these fees. I refused to do so and informed the credit card company’s representative that this was all a scam.

    September 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    • Good for you William. MyLife, Peoplefinder, Classmates.com are all affiliated from the reading of the lawsuit.

      September 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm

  21. Mikhail Botvinnik

    SCAM…SCAM…SCAM!

    So far there are in excess of 60 or 70 people looking for me. One problem…the name and associated information are all made-up, an avatar I use for for questionable web sites. Therefore those 60 or 70 people, so frantically looking for me, are either just as made up…or…are associated scammers.

    How could this be going on for so many years? Oh, that’s right the Party of Businesses currently rules in Washington.

    October 19, 2013 at 12:42 am

  22. on nov. 5 2013 I signed up for a three month trial
    advertised for $17.99 . my credit card was charged $95.45 now I cant get in contact with anyone .I live on social security and cant afford to be ripped off this way . If anyone knows how to make contact with these people please contact me at jdavidlewis.dl@gmail.com

    November 19, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    • JDavidLewis, thanks for the comment. contact your state atty general and ask to join any suit they may have filed on behalf of other consumers. also dispute the charge with your credit card company!

      November 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm

  23. Jack Sanguine

    I signed up for a $4.95 trial. I cancelled early. Only to find out six months later I was charged $82.00. I never authorized the charge.Thieves!

    March 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

    • Call your local Attorney General and fight the charges through you credit card company!

      March 14, 2014 at 5:45 pm

  24. Dee Fait

    I knew it was a scam the minute I got the first email, they have new information on my father who has been deceased for 35 years. Really, they must have special powers. I just wish they would stop spamming me !

    April 14, 2014 at 10:02 pm

  25. Santus Emporium

    Mylife is an entire waste and deceptive besides. I was looking for high school classmates I had lost contact with, clicked the link and instead of being connected with people from the past I was whisked to MyLife who wanted me to take out a membership. Classmates.com is just as bad. You click a link that has your old high school attached to it and you are taken to a completely different site.

    February 9, 2015 at 3:01 pm

  26. Hank

    I joined highschoolalumni.com a few years ago. I just tried to sign on and was taken to mylife.com and after reading all these entries, I see the scam. Also, I had joined classmates.com a few years ago and I see people posting that it now belongs to the same scam artist. Has the lawsuit been settled and if so, what was the fine the scammer had to pay and is he allowed to keep his sites going?

    February 15, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    • Lawsuit continues Hank! Let me know if you join the class action…

      February 23, 2015 at 10:06 pm

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