Rob Monfret was scrolling Facebook when he saw an ad for a free T-shirt from a company called I Love Boston.
The Methuen, Massachusetts, man said, "It's free. Just pay the shipping. I got excited."
So excited, that when the company offered another shirt for just a dollar at check out, he grabbed that too. What he didn't realize was that he was opting in for a VIP program that would charge his credit card $38.80 a month until he canceled.
So far, those "free" tee shirts have cost him more than $130.
We asked him, "Did you get any benefits? Any special access to anything?"
He shook his head, "No. I got nothing."
Donna Rivera of Chicago pounced on a free "Free Brady" tee in May. What she didn't realize was that she had to scroll down on an insert on the web page to find the disclosure about the VIP program. We searched and couldn't find any details about the actual benefits of the $38.80 a month VIP program.
"I need that money to buy stuff and when I go to use my card, it's not there," Rivera said.
When her account was overdrawn, she Googled "I Love Boston" to protest. She clicked on the first link and found a number for Mahlon Williams.
Standing in his Saugus store, he sighed in frustration, "It's not us. It's a different company."
Williams owns I Love Boston Sports in Saugus and I Love Boston Sports.com, which selling similar products to I Love Boston. He said protecting protecting his name and business is critical.
"My reputation is everything," he said.
He calls himself collateral damage in this tee shirt debacle. That when the "free tee shirt" customers have a hard time tracking down anyone at I Love Boston, hundreds of disgruntled people are calling him instead.
"Elderly people, people out of state that were on fixed incomes, that said, I can't afford this," he said.
We've repeatedly called the number at the bottom of the free tee shirt ads. The outgoing message says, "We're receiving a wicked lot of phone calls because of the free tee shirts we've been giving away."
We emailed, went to the address on the website — which doesn't exist — and finally tracked down another address through the Secretary of State's Office to Ferry Street in Everett.
Filings list Jonothan Holden as the president of I Love Boston's parent company. And though two different people in the building told us the man in front of us was Jonothan Holden — he denied knowing anything about the free tee shirts and told us to talk to someone named Rob.
We told him that people say their credit cards are being charged $38 every month and they don't get any product for it. The man others identified as Holden shook his head and said, "We just rent space here."
A few minutes later Robert Noe — listed as the parent company's other director — asked us to leave the building.
"Do you have a warrant or something?" he asked us. We told him we were not the police and asked if there was any way we could talk to somebody about the recurring charges on people's credit cards. As he led us out the door he simply said, "Ummm...nope."
Several customers say, they realize the VIP program isn't illegal, but say paying $38.80 a month for nothing is unethical.
"People work hard for their money and it's not right that they're taking advantage. You want something, work for it yourself," Christine in California said.
The Attorney General's Office has received a handful of complaints in recent weeks. They will not comment on whether or not they are investigating, but say they mediate disputes for free. They also look for patterns in complaints to see if a company's behavior may be considered deceptive trade practices. If you have a concern, call their consumer hotline at (617) 727-8400 or click here.