North Brookfield Savings Bank Warns about Free-Trial Scams
Many times, we know what we are signing up for, but sometimes it’s not as clear. Promises of FREE products or services creates a sense of urgency and gives you less time to think about how it will affect you financially in the long term.
Have you ever seen an advertisement giving away “free” items, and all you have to pay is the shipping? This is one of many instances where these “free “trials or items aren’t actually free. On the contrary, deals like this usually come with a hefty monthly cost that can be hard to cancel.
Next, think about the information you provide to these companies. Most will provide their name, address and credit card information to obtain a free trial. But this is where we need to ask ourselves, if this is FREE, Why do they need my card information? Well, it’s because it’s not free and there is most likely impossibly small print at the bottom of the advertisement or in the agreement stating you will be charged a fee, usually monthly or annually once you hit a certain date.
Keep this in mind. If you need to provide your card information, there will at some point be a charge of some kind. Always read find print and purchase agreements since this is where it will state something about continued charges and your ability to cancel. Also, check for emails from this company that act a “receipt” and can give you feedback on what the upcoming charges will be.
Real Free Trials DO exist. This is a great marketing technique to introduce new products. Companies that are reputable will not hide important information in their ad such as the length of the free trial or the cost of the service.
Beware of Celebrity endorsements: The Better Business Bureau reports that most “Celebrity Endorsed” products are not actually endorsed by that celebrity. Complaints are filed with BBB frequently regarding this. So if you’re only signing up for that product or service because your favorite celebrities do, think again.
Subscriptions: This can be tricky. You must read the Ads and fine print carefully. Many times, customers are allowing their card information to be collected for a one-time payment but what they don’t realize is they signed up for a subscription. These can be slightly easier to cancel, but the chances of getting a refund are slim.
The Federal Trade Commission has started cracking down on these offers that are falsely advertised. As much as it is the consumer’s responsibility to read that fine print and purchase agreement details, it is also on the company to clearly disclose that there will be continued charges.
Eliminating the confusion: Some card companies are also working internally to combat this. For Instance, MasterCard is changing their free trial rules in 2021. To increase transparency, after the trial period has ended, but before any additional payments are made by the cardholder, the merchant must provide the cardholder with the transaction amount, the payment date, the merchant name as well as instructions for cancelling a transaction. Finally, the merchant must send a receipt to the cardholder for each transaction by email or text message with instructions on how to cancel the service.
If you feel you have fallen victim to or signed up for a free trial that wasn’t actually free you should;
- Contact the company directly: often times, resolution is completed with the merchant. Also, if there is an online platform to log into sometimes it is simple enough to change or cancel subscriptions right from there.
- If that doesn’t work out you may want to reach out to your Bank or Credit Card Company. However, there are many stipulations with what the bank can do for you if you signed up for a trial.
- To report a free trial scam or a scam of any kind, please report to the Federal Trade Commission: by clicking HERE.