New online health club scam

Seven On Your Side
March 30, 2009 3:07:06 PM PDT
Dozens of people thought they had cut rate memberships to some of the biggest and priciest health clubs in the city. But instead of shedding a few pounds, only their wallets were made lighter by a clever crook with a new kind of online scam. Ilene Antelman relies on her old pair of rollerblades to keep her in shape.

The Kips Bay publicist thought she had found a year's membership at the trendy and pricey health club - Equinox for a cut rate price.

"Got a great trainer, wonderful facillities, beautiful gym." Ilene related the scam to 7 On Your Side's Tappy Phillips. "Everyone's so friendly and lovely and one day they say your gym membership has been canceled."

A few months ago Ilene saw an online offer on Craigslist - to transfer a two thousand dollar a year Equinox membership into Ilene's name for just $700.

"I was very pleased with myself for getting such a great deal." But Ilene's great deal was a debacle.

Ilene says the online scammer bought a membership using a credit card, then told her he transferred it to her name. She even got valid Equinox membership cards. But the credit card the scammer used turned out to be stolen. Her deal was a scam. And Ilene's membership was terminated.

"I was obviously really annoyed." Terrance also lost $700 to the same Equinox membership scam. His membership was good for 2 months before the credit card came up stolen.

"It had been determined that my membership had been fraudulent and I would have to talk to the police to dispute it," said Terrance.

Equinox told us they were victims too. They say only their own employees can sell memberships. Equinox offered both Terrance and Ilene a month free and a membership at full price. Ilene wanted more.

But when New York Heath and Racquet Club heard about Ilene, they stepped up and offered her six months membership for free - and a reduced rate if she chooses to stay.

"It's really wonderful that you guys covered this," beamed Ilene. "I'm so excited to have a new gym, with a pool."

Several other health clubs like New York Sports Club and New York Health and Racquet club - were also used for this on-line scam. New York Health and Racquet Club said anyone tricked into a membership at their club will get 6 months free, like Ilene, if they sign up for a year. And remember, some clubs like NYSC do not allow memberships to transfer. So make sure you check it out thoroughly with the health club itself before paying any 3rd party for a transfer. ----

Story by: Tappy Phillips

Produced by: Steve Livingstone

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Tappy Phillips