Fraud Friday: 3 ways to avoid subscription traps and deceptive free trials

Jul 21, 2023 | General News

This Fraud Friday we’re discussing a slightly more subtle, insidious scheme that’s plaguing customers: predatory subscriptions, free trials and memberships. You may have experienced one of these yourself when you signed up to get something sent to your home on a regular basis, or subscribed to an appetizing “free trial.” It all seems very convenient and exciting! Then you realize the extremely inconvenient truth: they’ve made it nearly impossible for you to cancel.

The FTC and Better Business Bureau are always on the case trying to help protect folks with laws such as 2010’s Restore Online Shopper’s Confidence Act. However, you must use your own discernment to avoid these schemes because payment card networks will only reimburse a small percentage of these transactions. Nessa Feddis of the American Business Association said in a statement sent to CNBC, “Card companies may not always be able to intervene in cases where the customer has authorized the payment and the merchant has delivered a product as agreed.”

So until more strict laws require companies to stop these deceptive and unfair practices, remember this advice from the BBB: “Be wary of places offering free trials. Don’t do any online free trial offers unless you check it out really carefully.”

And with that, here are three recommendations for the next time you see a tantalizing free trial or celebrity-endorsed subscription product.

1. Try a quick Google search for the company or product accompanied with words like “review,” “complaint” and “scam.”

2. Take a scroll through the terms and conditions. If you can’t find or understand them, avoid signing up for the subscription.

3. If you already bought a product, go ahead and report the issue to the FTC, as well as your bank or credit card company.

Remember, we are always here for you! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or have fallen victim to a scam.