As you browse online, you probably see offers to try out cool products or services for free. This can be tempting and, many times, it’s okay to check them out. But some dishonest companies will bury the terms of their “free trial” offers in fine print or not disclose them at all. Their real goal is to rob you blind.
In its lawsuit against AH Media, the FTC says this is how the company took money from more than 100,000 people. AH Media advertised free trials of skin creams and dietary pills, telling people they only had to pay $4.99 in shipping costs to try the products. But, the FTC says, AH Media billed people about $90 for the products two weeks later. On top of that, the company allegedly enrolled these same people — without their knowledge or permission — in a subscription plan for the products...at close to an additional $90 per month. AH Media either didn’t disclose the terms of the “free” offers, hid them in tiny print, or buried them in hyperlinks, according to the FTC’s lawsuit.
But wait…there’s more! When people clicked the large, green “Complete Checkout” button to pay the shipping fee, AH Media allegedly added even more trials and subscriptions to their orders — for yet another $90 or so per month.
If you’re thinking of signing up for a “free” trial offer, keep these tips in mind:
- Do some research. Search the product and company name online with words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam” to see what others are saying.
- Find the terms and conditions for the offer. If you can't find them or can't understand exactly what you're agreeing to – or what you’ll be charged for – don't sign up.
- Monitor your credit and debit card statements. If you’re charged for something you didn’t order, dispute those charges as soon as you spot them.
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If you’ve been taken by a so-called “free” offer, report it to the FTC.