There’s hardly a “free trial” that won’t cost you big. The FTC is warning of an uptick in free trial scams, which come in several shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common free trial scams:
In one such scam, a company aggressively advertised “free trials” for skin care products, dietary supplements and e-cigarettes on various popular websites. The lucky consumer would only need to cover the cost of shipping and handling and the product would be delivered – absolutely free!
Of course, the product wasn’t free. The victims paid close to $100 in fees before the first shipment was sent out. Worse yet, they were charged this same fee each month for the next year, with no way to back out of their contract until the 12 months were up.
Careful what you click
In another scam with a similar setup, consumers were again asked to share payment information to cover the shipping and handling for the “free” products. However, after the order was placed, another screen with a “Complete Checkout” button appeared.
Shoppers who clicked that button unwittingly agreed to pay for monthly shipments of the product to the tune of $94.31 each month. Then, after that button was clicked, yet another “Complete Checkout” button appeared.
Again, those who clicked the button were subjected to a monthly $94.31 charge. Consumers who’d taken the bait twice ended up with a total monthly charge of $188.62 – plus shipping.
The classic redirect
In this common scam, consumers were lured into signing up for a 12-month trial subscription to a popular service, like Netflix, absolutely free. Victims were redirected to a new webpage where they were asked to share sensitive information to qualify for the trial. Unfortunately, the company advertising for the free trial wasn’t Netflix at all; it was a group of scammers.
You can probably guess the ending: The scammers made off with the consumer’s information, emptied their accounts or stole their identity.
Don’t let this happen to you! Here’s how to steer clear of free trial scams:
- Do your research. Searching the company name with words like “scam” or “negative review” will 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.
- Check URLs. 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.