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Buyers Beware: The Danger of “Free Trial” Offers

 

You see an ad for a new FREE trial of a ‘Groundbreaking Weight Loss Supplement’ or a ‘Miracle Skincare Product Guaranteed to Erase Your Wrinkles’ and you think, “it’s a free trial, why not?”

Well, let me tell you why you should be cautious…

Most free trials make you enter your credit or debit card number because all you have to pay is the low-cost of shipping, but what they don’t tell you in the big print is that you have to make sure to cancel your trial or that card will be charged when the trial period is over. Cancellation information tends to be hidden in the small print or the terms & conditions, so you have to make sure you catch those details. Some dishonest companies even put strict conditions on returns and cancellations that can make it next to impossible to stop deliveries and billing.

No one wants to be without their hard-earned money, because you forgot to cancel a free trial, so if you really want to try the product here are tips offered by the Federal Trade Commission on how to avoid unwanted fees:

  • Research the company online. Read what other people are saying about the company’s free trials — and its service. Complaints from other consumers can tip you off to “catches” that might come with the trial.
  • Find the offer’s terms and conditions. That includes offers on TV and the radio, in the newspaper or online. If you can’t find them or don’t understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, don’t sign up.
  • Look for who’s behind the offer. Just because you’re online buying something from one company doesn’t mean the offer or pop-up isn’t from another company.
  • 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. If it passes without you telling the company to cancel your “order,” you may be on the hook for more products.
  • Look for information on how to cancel future shipments or services. If you don’t want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?
  • Review your bank statements and be vigilant in online and mobile banking. This is just good practice, but in this case, you’ll know right away if you’re being charged for something you didn’t order.

All-in-all, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Most companies aren’t in the business of giving their products away truly for free, there is likely a catch (like agreeing to a subscription) or a fee somewhere. Just be aware and be sure you are making an informed decision before you snag that “free” trial.

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