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How to Avoid Unforeseen Credit Card Charges

6 ways to spot unintentional purchases before they cost you cash

dark pattern credit card charges are on the rise
Chris Gash

A growing number of Americans are making an unsettling discovery while examining their credit card accounts. Embedded in the list of monthly transactions are charges for things they don't remember buying or services they can't recall receiving.

Federal fraud busters and other experts call the ploys behind these nasty surprises “dark patterns.” That term applies to tactics used by online companies, subscription services and even political fundraisers to trick consumers into triggering recurring credit card charges, making unintended purchases or giving up personal information.

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These might be items sneaked into your web shopping carts. Or maybe while in the process of buying something online, you were tricked by the software into accepting a more expensive item or a monthly surcharge. Or perhaps a web company used visual fakery like hard-to-see opt-out buttons to deceive you into unintentionally opting in — every month.

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AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.