The FTC is warning of an uptick in free trial scams, which come in several shapes and sizes. However, most will look something like this:
You see an ad from a company saying you’ve been granted a temporary subscription to their product, absolutely free. The only catch? Supposedly none, until you’re asked to pay for hidden fees that are more than shipping and handling. By then, it’s also too late to back out.
Alternatively, you might be asked to share your financial information, such as a credit card, even though you’re officially not obligated to pay anything.
In short, there’s hardly a “free trial” that won’t cost you big.
In one such scam, a company aggressively advertised “free trials” for health care products on various popular websites. The lucky consumer would only need to pay enough to cover shipping and handling and the product would be delivered – absolutely free!
Sadly, though, many unlucky victims of this scam paid close to $200 in fees before the first shipment was sent out. Worse yet, they were charged this same fee each month for the next year.
Here’s how to steer clear of free trial scams:
- Do your research. A quick online search of the company name with words like “scam” or “negative review” should give you an idea of what the business is all about.
- Read the fine print. Don’t click anything without reading all terms and conditions of the offer.
- Look for an exit strategy. Is there a way to change your mind? If you only have a small pocket of time to cancel, you might be looking at a scam.
- Always review your credit card and checking account statements. This way, you’ll spot anything suspicious and you’ll be able to determine if you can back out of a shady deal.
- Don’t share sensitive information online. Never give out sensitive information like your social security number or account numbers.
- Check URLs. When signing up for a free trial, you’ll be redirected to a new site. Check the URL of the webpage and determine if it matches the company you are allegedly dealing with.
- Ignore urgent calls to action. If an ad urges you to “act now!” or claims an offer will expire momentarily, it’s likely a scam.
Stay alert, and don’t let a free trial cost you big!
Your Turn: Have you ever been duped by a free-trial scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.
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