Managing expenses is not an easy task, especially as people are so consumed in their daily activities that complicated tasks like budget planning take a backseat. There are various tools available that make budget planning easier. Some people prefer a simple spreadsheet, however, there are also sophisticated software available that aim to make expense management a breeze.
Following the software industry’s trend of offering applications under a ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) subscription model, many of these applications require a monthly fee to access the service. One such service that fell in my radar is Expensefriend run by a company named Austin Sphere Limited registered in Cyprus.
In this article, we shall take a look at a few such budget planner subscription services which show signs that they may be Subscription Scams. The websites we analyzed appear to all follow the same design layouts and were also found to have the same owners. Further, they seem to provide exactly the same applications, just under different names. Have a look below at the offering of expensefriend.com.
The site is well designed and doesn’t seem to be fishy by itself. However, upon analyzing the text on the home page, I found that there are at least 5 other websites that have the same content.
Additionally, there are at least 3 more budget planner sites operated by the same company, which is stated to be Austin Sphere Ltd. registered in Cyprus. It should be noted that firms registered in Cyprus are often offshore companies created for tax purposes and ease of doing business, meaning the website owners may be located in a different country.
Comparing the below screenshots of 123budgetplan.com and easybudgetplan.com with that of expensefriend.com, we can see that the dashboards of all three applications seem to be identical. Therefore, we assume that it is the same budget planning software being offered under various names.
Further research revealed that some of these websites are operated by a different company named Clubhouse Solution Kft. registered in Hungary. There is a reasonable probability that Austin Sphere Ltd. and Clubhouse Solution Kft. may be the same parent company operating under different names.
The budget management software services are all offered for a monthly fee of €48.75.
As there does not seem to be any remarkable difference in the applications, it comes across as being counterproductive to create multiple websites as it entails maintaining all the sites instead of just one. This is reminiscent of ‘Brain Training’ Sites that trap unsuspecting users in unwanted subscriptions by offering a ‘free prize’ when a user signs up for a trial by paying €1.
The caveat is that the trial automatically converts into a monthly subscription unless manually cancelled before the end of the trial period. Therefore, users who provided their card details have gone for months before realizing that they are being charged a fee for a service they never use.
While there is no mention of a free prize on these websites, the same model of a short trial automatically converting into a monthly subscription is being used. The €1.99 trial offer is prominently displayed but the fine print about an automatically recurring €48.75 subscription might be missed by those signing up.
Upon further research, it turns out that these budget planner subscription sites may indeed be running promotions promising free gifts. A review for ExpenseFriend mentions that the user was unknowingly signed up for a subscription after sharing their card information to enrol in the trial and receive a free gift.
English translation: Complete scam!!! Recurring levies 19th. Products for 1 e and nothing received …. on the other hand, they deduct from your account. Warning !!!
Users complaining that they were unaware that they were agreeing to pay a recurring fee by signing up for the trial is a common theme in reviews.
English translation: I’m registered on this site, it takes money from my card every month and I can’t unsubscribe, because it doesn’t have this option. I pay in vain, and for what? Clean thief. Shame on them.
A possible reason for this could be that these sites appear under different names on credit card bills. By looking at the Terms & Conditions page, we can see that almost every website has at least two or three names for billing. In many cases, the name in the bill is completely different from the URL of the website.
I found that there are at least 19 different websites being used exclusively for billing. When I visited these sites, I found that they lead to a ‘Billing Support’ page which allows subscribers to cancel their subscription, among other things.
While it does not seem as if the sites run by Austin Sphere Ltd. and Clubhouse Solution Kft. are outright scams, it does appear that they are getting users to sign up for their budget planning software subscription service under the guise of winning a free prize by paying €1.99 for a trial. The fact that there are a number of portals operated by the same companies being used to provide exactly the same service is extremely suspicious. Additionally, the names of websites may not always appear in the credit card statement, causing unnecessary confusion to unaware subscribers.
These websites are a prime example that failing to read the fine print can end up costing dearly. In order to receive a free prize, you need to provide your credit card details. These details are then used to sign you up for a ‘trial’ for €1.99 which automatically becomes a monthly subscription costing €48.75 after 3 days.
Unless you are alert enough to cancel the subscription on the second or third day of the 3-day trial period, you may end up losing a minimum of €48.75 for a subscription that you will likely never use.
Remember: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
To read about other Ecommerce Scams, click here.
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If you have been the victim of a subscription scam, you can take the following steps:
- File a complaint with your bank and ask them to stop the recurring charges. You can initiate a chargeback for previous transactions but you might not get back the money if a lot of time has passed since the charge appeared.
- Leave a negative review on review portals such as Scamadviser, TrustPilot, OnlineThreatAlerts and SiteJabber
- Give a low rating to the website on Web of Trust. You can also install their extension for the same
- Report the scam site to web filtering companies.
List of sites sharing the same content
List of sites used for billing
Disclaimer: This review is intended for information only and should not be relied on when making financial or business decisions. If you are a website owner and would like to provide clarifications regarding your business and/or website, please get in touch using the Contact Form.