It’s a sign of the times during this pandemic as we try to stay connected. We’re on our phones scrolling through social media and tending to email. While browsing, you see an ad for a chance to try something out for free. You think, “Why not, what have I got to lose?”
What appears to be a free or low-cost trial can add up to be much more that you bargained for, with strings attached. Most free trials require consumers to enter their card information to pay for shipping. This information can then be used to cover future costs if the cardholder forgets to end the trial or subscription.
While the cardholder may make a note to cancel the service before any fees hit their card, it’s not always so simple. Some deceitful businesses hide the terms and conditions of their offers in fine print or use prechecked sign-up boxes as the default setting. Often, returns and cancellations are so strict that it could be next to impossible to stop the deliveries and the billing.
Other "free" offers enroll you in clubs or subscriptions. For example, a company might offer you an introductory package of free books, CDs, magazines or movies. If you sign up, you may be agreeing to enroll in a club that will send you more products and bill you until you cancel, or to a subscription that's automatically renewed each year.
So how can you avoid the costs that might be hiding in free trials?
If you see charges you didn't agree to, contact the company directly to sort out the situation. WKFCU will not be able to dispute these charges because you gave them your information.
If you've been wrongly charged for a free trial offer, report it to the FTC. You also can contact your local consumer protection agency, and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
Always be careful with these types of offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
(Partially reprinted from Shazam Blog and the Federal Trade Commission – consumer.ftc.gov.)
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