BBB ON SENIORS Risk-free trial offers not as harmless as you think

February 15, 2019

Risk-free trial offers often sound harmless, but the number of dollars lost to these free offers over the past 10 years would indicate otherwise. A reported $1.3 billion has been lost to fine print and fraudulent products peddled in risk-free trial offers across the country in the last decade.

Scammers and fraudulent companies put endless efforts into advertising miracle products that you can try in your own home if only you pay a nominal shipping fee of a few dollars. Offers can be seen on TV, come through the mail, or found on the Internet, but no matter what they are for or who they are from they likely all have the same fine print or warning message.

The brightest red flag to look for when considering trying out a new product “risk free,” is having to enter your credit or debit card number, even under the guise of paying for shipping.

Whether it is noted in the fine print or not, your banking information enables these companies to set up recurring payments of expensive products you don’t even want, because the product they sent does not live up to all the hype that hooked you in the first place.

For example, you decide to try out what looks like a luxurious face cream you saw featured on a talk show when get an email for a risk-free trial, as long as you pay $7 for shipping. The problem is the company who sent you that email is fake and when you paid for the shipping you unknowingly signed up for a costly multi-month subscription for a product that is far from what you thought you’d be getting because you did not call to cancel this subscription that you unknowingly signed up for within 14 days of starting your “risk-free trial.”

The next month you see a charge from that same company for the trial cream they sent you along with more products they have sent, that you don’t want, all because you did not return the risk-free trial sample in the allotted time that you did not know about because it was buried in fine print, that is impossible to find if you are not looking for it.

From blatant lies to phony celebrity endorsements, scammers use all kinds of tactics to sign people up for risk-free trials of amazing new products. Remember the common red flags 1.) if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and 2.) it is not free if you have to pay for it.

If you think you may have been swindled by a free trial offer, check your bank and credit card statements regularly. These companies are not known for giving refunds or being particularly helpful when it comes to returns and cancellations, so remember the added protections you get when shopping with credit cards that were noted in last month’s article.

Always feel free to call the BBB Education Foundation at 713-341-6141 if you have any questions about risk-free trial offers before you sign up.

Melissa Ramsey is the BBB Education Foundation columnist. For more information, call 713-341-6141.