Common Free Trial Scams:
How Do They Work and What Can You
Actually Do To Avoid Them?
Many good and trustworthy companies use the free trial business model to promote their brand among private and business consumers legitimately.
It’s an effective way to expose newly launched products and services to their target audience, increase interest among potential customers, generate leads and boost sales.
After all, many of us love trying out a new product sample, especially when it’s given for free with no strings attached. It simply sounds like a great deal – right?
However, scammers, fraudsters and shady companies are also using this popular method as a mechanism to lure, con, trick and defraud unsuspecting victims, who mistakenly believe they have nothing to lose.
The internet is flooded with “free” or “risk-free” trials for a variety of different products: from health, beauty, wellness, nutrition, and weight loss products to gadgets, digital services, and software programs.
Dubious businesses and cybercriminals use a variety of unethical, dishonest and illegal methods to swindle consumers out of their money through tempting trial offers.
Here are a few common formats of free trial scams:
- Hidden or hard to find terms and conditions agreement.
- Key information deeply buried in the fine print.
- Hidden fees and charges.
- Auto-enroll subscription schemes without consumer knowledge or consent.
- Subscriptions that are difficult or impossible to cancel.
- Fake, misleading or deceptive “pay shipping & handling only” offers.
- Phony celebrity endorsements.
- Bait and switch practices.
- False claims.
Quick Tips: How to Avoid “Free Trial” Traps?
Fraudulent trial offers can sometimes be tricky to detect and might lack apparent warning signs for the unprofessional eye.
Scammers are constantly getting more clever, sophisticated and creative and the websites they operate are often professionally designed and look as if they represent legitimate companies.
However, consumers can still do a lot to protect themselves from falling victim to such traps by adopting a few basic rules.
- Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company.
- Research the free trial program on Google.
- Look for company reviews, complaints, and warnings at the BBB website.
- Read the offer’s terms and conditions carefully – including the fine print.
- Avoid trial offers with no clear contact information.
- Make sure you totally understand the cancellation procedure before signing up.
- Uncheck pre-checked boxes in the sign-up form and verify what you’re agreeing to.
- Mark your calendar, so you can remember to cancel before the trial period ends.
- Monitor your credit card statements regularly for unfamiliar charges.
- Be skeptical: remember the old saying “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.”