Watch for phony claims about TV endorsements
Recently, BBB has received reports of consumers falling prey to pitches for products that claim to be endorsed by the popular TV program, “Shark Tank.” This is a new twist on fraudulent “free trial offers,” a common scam that costs consumers millions of dollars each year.
How the scam works
You see an ad on the internet about a new product, often a diet supplement promising to help you lose weight, get perfect skin, cleanse your digestive tract, or even prevent cancer. In fact, the product is so great; it’s endorsed by the TV program “Shark Tank.” What’s more, the manufacturers are willing to send you a free sample. All you have to do is pay a small shipping and handling fee.
If you do offer up your credit card information for the “free trial offer,” you’re in for a surprise. The trial isn’t really free. You are supposed to receive the supplements, try them, and if they don’t work, send them back before the trial ends. But the supplements arrive late, so you don’t have time to send them back before you are charged full price. Not only that, the website is designed for consumers to inadvertently sign up for an expensive monthly “subscription.” Contacting customer service seems to always be a real challenge. The original website may disappear, leaving you without many options. If you do manage to speak to a representative, they often say there is nothing they can do. If you don’t notice the charges right away, you could end up making monthly recurring payments for a product that doesn’t work.
How to avoid subscription scams
• Be especially wary of ads with extravagant claims. Free trial offer scams often use celebrity endorsements (even claiming the star is leaving show business to focus on the new company!), offer fake endorsements like “Shark Tank,” and make claims that are beyond reasonable belief.
• Read the fine print. Most subscription sites, even the fraudulent ones, have fine print that reveals the “catch” to the great deal you are being offered. Make sure to read the fine print carefully to make sure you understand what you are signing up for.
• Be cautious when making online payments. Before making any purchase online, double check you are on the right website and have a secure connection. Make sure the URL starts with “https://” and includes a lock icon on the purchase page. (Learn more about secure websites at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)
• Only use your credit card online. Purchases made with your credit card can be disputed. You may not be able to recover funds spent with another payment method.
To learn more about subscription and “free trial” scams, read the BBB report at us.bbb.org/freetrial. To learn about other kinds of scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips.
If you have been the victim of this or another scam, make others aware by filing a report on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Visit bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips, follow us on social media, and more!