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June 11, 2024 Security

Flashy Free Trial Scams On the Rise

Flash free trials pop up everywhere on social media and the internet. Have you ever stopped to see if all of these trials are actually free? Chances are there are not. They may be flashy and catch you attention and make you want to get their product, but oftentimes you are being lured into a potential scam.

The FTC has noticed a recent increase in free trials scams, so it is important to know how they plan out so you can be sure to avoid them before you lose money or information.

A few ways to tell if you are being scammed is to decide if the free trial is actually free. Ask yourself:

  • Am I having to pay any money?
  • Are they telling me that I have to pay shipping and handling?
  • Are they asking for your credit card information?  

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then it is probably not as free as they say it is. Even with the flashy “You only need to pay enough to cover shipping and handing and the product will be delivered – absolutely free!” wording, you will find that there are a lot of hidden fees they are trying to sneak by you. Here are a few examples of what a free trial scam could look like:

There was a company aggressively advertising free trials for various health care products on multiple websites. Sadly, once the victim submitted their information for the free trial, they ended up paying close to $200 dollars in fees before the first shipment of products was every sent to them. Not only that, but they were then charged that amount each month for the next year.

A cosmetic beauty company advertised a free trial for their top selling product, but once you get on the website to check out, they ask for your credit card information, with wording that claims not to worry because the product is still free! What you don’t know is that now you have signed up for a subscription to the product, and if you don’t cancel it within a month, they will charge you full price for the product the next month.

Not only are these situations sad, but they can become even worse and submit more charges on your credit card if you are not careful. Be sure to actively watch your transactions to ensure they are not charging more then they claim. These company’s are also impossible to reach by phone as well, and so it can be almost impossible to cancel a charge or subscription.

How to Avoid Free Trials Scams

No one wants to hand out money when they think something is free, so here are a few tips to keep you away from these 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. 
  • 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. 

Best Practices

If you find something online that you really want, and see a free trial offer, skip the ad! Go straight to the business website of the product you want and see the cost. Start putting together a small fund of money by setting aside a certain amount from each of your paychecks. Once you have done this for a few months, you can buy the product outright and not have the hassle of a subscription or a lengthy scam and still get the items you hope for!

Stay alert, and don’t let a free trial cost you big!