Don’t fall in to the ‘Free Trial Trap’

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It could cost you in the long run

Everywhere you turn these days, you’re being asked to sign up for something. Whether it’s handing over your email address for an instore promotion or giving up your credit card details for a ‘free’ trial, it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve actually signed up for.

This can prove very expensive for consumers who mistakenly sign up to ‘free’ subscriptions for face creams, weight loss products, vitamins, streaming apps, and other products. Typically, problems arise when credit or debit card information is required to receive the ‘free’ trial (this could be disguised as being required to pay postage and packing for items). Often, hidden in the small print are agreements to ongoing monthly subscriptions, something consumers don’t spot until money is taken from their accounts.

‘Free trial’ scams are often operated by foreign companies. They use a well hidden ‘continuous payment authority’ usually within the terms and conditions to take money from consumer’s accounts. These can sometimes prove difficult for consumers to cancel and get their money back.

How to avoid the subscription scams

  • Research the company online. See what other people are saying about the company's free trials — and its service. Complaints from other customers can tip you off to "catches" that might come with the trial.
  • Find the terms and conditions for the offer. That includes offers online, on TV, in the newspaper, or on the radio. If you can't find them or can't understand exactly what you're agreeing to, don't sign up.
  • Watch out for pre-checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, look for already-checked boxes. That checkmark may give the company the green light to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products — only this time you have to pay.
  • Mark your calendar. Your free trial probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you telling the company to cancel your "order," you may be on the hook for more products.
  • Look for info on how you can cancel future shipments or services. If you don't want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?
  • Read your credit and debit card statements. That way you'll know right away if you're being charged for something you didn't order.
  • If it sounds to good to be true then its usually a scam. Don’t sign up.

Beware of falling in to the ‘free trial trap’ and unintentionally subscribing to products you don’t want or need.

If you have been caught, it is important you contact the retailer and your bank immediately to report the activity.


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