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Financial tip: avoid free trial scams.

  • Posted on May 14, 2020
young woman sitting at computer with credit card in her hand

What would you say if I offered you a product to try out if you ordered online, and I told you that this is an absolutely free trial offer? For most people, they would jump at the chance to try out a product for free, even if they were only half-interested in it.

Free trial scams occur when the promoter cons a customer into being charged money for the supposed “free trial.” It’s often the flashy websites and big promises of instant results that convince people to give online deals a try. Plus, the trials costing little to no money is the icing on the top for most people. Another reason for people falling for these scams is due to the fake celebrity endorsements, which are in most cases photo shopped into the websites to suggest they use the product.

When the customer clicks to sign up for a free trial product online, they are often redirected to the checkout page. At this checkout page, the customer is told the price they will have to pay at the time of signing up. This is usually just a few dollars. The trial in most cases comes with a trial period of 14 days that begins the same day the customer signs up for the trial, leaving very little time to cancel. In addition, the terms and conditions indicate that if you don’t cancel the trial offer within that time, the customer will be charged for the product they have received. This is often around $80-$250, not what was promised under -$10 shipping charge. In addition, hidden in the fine print is that signing up for the trial offer also enrolls the customer into their membership program, for the auto-subscription plan. This type of membership is very difficult to cancel and many times the number listed rings busy.

How to avoid falling for these scams

Research the company.
Find out if the company/sellers are legitimate and if there are complaints about their products and services being a scam. Check how long the company has been around and its ratings on BBB. Also, check to find out if the company provides the product or they are only promoters.

Read the Terms and Conditions properly.
Read the fine print to find out about the trial period, price per bottle, shipping charges, currency, recurring charges, membership subscriptions, refund policy, cancelation procedure, etc. If you can’t understand a term or phrase, use Google to find out the meanings.

Keep an eye on pre-checked boxes.
Often, checkboxes that add on other products are prefilled when you get to checkout. Uncheck these boxes to avoid signing up for unnecessary services or products. These choices are legally binding, and you will have to pay for the products if you fill in the checkboxes.

Remember the trial period limit.
If you get the trial offer, ensure that you are aware of the trial period. If you have any intentions of returning the product or asking for a refund, remember that you can only do so before the trial period expires.

Read your Account Statements.
Check your account statement to make sure you aren’t charged extra or for a product you didn’t order. Some people have found to be charged multiple times for the same product.

At the end of the day—if the offer seems too good to be probably is. Don’t make any rushed decisions and ‘sleep on it.’ If you are still interested after 24-hours, dig a little deeper into the validity of the offer before making a purchase.

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