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When a company says you can try its product for free, you might think, why not?

Here’s why not: You could end up paying a lot of money for that free trial. Scammers often use free trial offers with undisclosed or buried terms to enroll people in costly membership programs.

That’s what happened in the case of Triangle Media Corporation, the FTC alleges. Triangle Media advertised “risk free” trials on different websites for skincare products, dietary supplements, and e-cigarettes for just the cost of shipping and handling.

But people who accepted the “risk free” trial paid a lot more than shipping and handling — as much as $98.71 for the first shipment, and for each monthly shipment that followed. And anyone who clicked the “COMPLETE CHECKOUT” button that appeared after placing their order was charged for an additional product and monthly membership without their knowledge.

Don’t let this happen to you. Here are a few tips to avoid free trial scams:

  • Do your research. See what other people are saying about the company. Search the name of the company with words like “complaint” or “scam.”
  • Look at the terms and conditions. If you can’t find them, or can’t understand them, don’t sign up.
  • Find out how to cancel. Look for information on what to do if you don’t want the product anymore. Do you still have to pay? Do you have a limited time to cancel?
  • Mark your calendar. Your free trial offer probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you cancelling, you may owe money.
  • Read your credit and debit account statements. You’ll know right away if you’re being charged for something you didn’t order.

Want to know more? Check out our guidance on “Free” Trial Offers. And if you’ve been wrongly charged for a free trial offer, report it to the FTC.

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4 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Jenny from Toronto
July 05, 2018
Hell, I bought one diet products on line for free with just a shipping and handling cost $3.99. I ended up pay $279. The reason was the products being used so if you wanted to return the products should be unused. I even contacted my CIBC credit company but they didn't try to help me. I cancelled my CIBI credit after paying the scammer. Please "free products online is not free at all" but very expensive. Thx for reading!
D in Ct
July 10, 2018
Always use a credit card. Notify them immediately
Florence
May 15, 2019
I recently opted to try a Client Management System for one month and of course I forgot to cancel when the month was up. It cost me $395 for signing up for one year which I didn't want to do. I contacted the company and I'm not getting my money back because it was clearly stated that I had to cancel my credit card or I would pay that membership for one year. Is there really nothing I can do to get them to reimburse me?? Thanks for your help. Much appreciated :) Florence
KD49
September 06, 2019
I tried one of those free offers, paid the shipping fee and 13 days later, before I even received the product, I was charged $79. for a 30 month supply and a subscription to receive every month at that amount. Needless to say I was furious! Thankfully I contacted my bank and reported a fraudulent charge, they credited my account and went after them. They eventually returned my money and the bank was able to get theirs back from my account. I won't make that mistake again.