User Beware: Auction site charges before bidding

HOUSTON The search for bargains is at an all time high right now, but before you sign up for them, be sure you know what you are getting and how much it will cost.

It is that advice one Willis woman wishes she had taken before she signed up for a penny auction site.

Carolyn Boehm knows all about eBay.

"Nothing comes out of your account until you actually bid on something and win the auction," she said.

The eBay format has helped Boehm furnish her home, but now penny auction websites are popping up that turn the "bid, win, pay" concept on its head. Instead, consumers have to pay before they can bid on anything.

"Put all the information on there, just the way I had with eBay, which I have done business with for years, when I got through and hit the button, they informed me that a $159 had been taken from my account," Boehm said.

The $159 charge is listed at the bottom of the SwipeAuctions registration page, but Boehm says she did not see it until after she submitted her debit card information.

Boehm says right after signing up, she got a notification that her account had been charged before she had bid on anything.

"And I thought, Oh, no. And I went back and I looked, and so I started looking for a phone number, no phone number," she said.

Only then did Boehm learn the only way to contact a person at the website is through live chat.

Boehm says she was offered a refund form, but there was a catch.

"It told me they would consider making my reimbursement after I made 300 bids, and I said what?" she said.

Boehm has since canceled her debit card and is disputing the charge.

We tried to contact SwipeAuctions about the refund policy and could only speak to someone through the live chat feature. They directed us to write to an email address, but so far no one has contacted us.

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