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Don’t let “FREE” cost you

When a company says you can try its product for free, you might think, why not?

Here’s why not: You could end up paying a lot of money for that free trial. Scammers often use free trial offers with undisclosed or buried terms to enroll people in costly membership programs.

That’s what happened in the case of Triangle Media Corporation, the FTC alleges. Triangle Media advertised “risk free” trials on different websites for skincare products, dietary supplements, and e-cigarettes for just the cost of shipping and handling.

But people who accepted the “risk free” trial paid a lot more than shipping and handling — as much as $98.71 for the first shipment, and for each monthly shipment that followed. And anyone who clicked the “COMPLETE CHECKOUT” button that appeared after placing their order was charged for an additional product and monthly membership without their knowledge.

Don’t let this happen to you. Here are a few tips to avoid free trial scams:

  • Do your research. See what other people are saying about the company. Search the name of the company with words like “complaint” or “scam.”
  • Look at the terms and conditions. If you can’t find them, or can’t understand them, don’t sign up.
  • Find out how to cancel. Look for information on what to do if you don’t want the product anymore. Do you still have to pay? Do you have a limited time to cancel?
  • Mark your calendar. Your free trial offer probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you cancelling, you may owe money.
  • Read your credit and debit account statements. You’ll know right away if you’re being charged for something you didn’t order.

Want to know more? Check out our guidance on “Free” Trial Offers. And if you’ve been wrongly charged for a free trial offer, report it to the FTC.

By: Emma Fletcher, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC.