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When you’re online, some companies try to trick you into buying things you don’t want. Or into giving them permission to use your personal information. The use of these deceptive designs, known as dark patterns, is on the rise, according to a new report from the FTC. So, what do these dark patterns look like — and how do they take your money and your data?

Companies deploy a variety of dark patterns. Here are a few examples:

  • They place online ads that look like editorial content.
  • They hide fees and charges until late in the buying process.
  • They offer a free trial that leads to a recurring subscription charge.
  • They have processes that make it hard to cancel a subscription.
  • They collect personal information even if they don’t need it to complete a transaction.
  • They give you confusing privacy choices that trick you into giving away your information.

To learn more about these tactics and what the FTC is doing to protect you, check out the report, Bringing Dark Patterns to Light.

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31 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.

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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.

Alan
September 21, 2022

It is about time! Thank you!

casey
September 21, 2022

Can these company's or websites be reported to the FTC?

FTC Staff
September 22, 2022

In reply to by casey

Report fraud, scams, and bad business practices to the FTC at www.ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The information you gives goes into a secure database the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

4lllls
September 21, 2022

We need more protections and the ads should be stopped because they cause us to lose data and we can't stop them but you can. Thank you for what you do.

Dan Gannon
September 21, 2022

Clicked on a "find out more" logo which brought up a filled-in order form for three of the items in question, already billed to PayPal. All efforts to reduce/discard order were fruitless. Billed for almost $100, no refunds, PayPal worthless in trying to get order cancelled. Many steps later finally got a 2/3 refund even though I had sent back entire order. Super strong toenail clippers. BEWARE!

Charles Koster
September 21, 2022

Amazon

W.R. Casebolt
September 21, 2022

HOW do I register or file a complaint regarding a pending charge to my banking act. for a product (or service) that I have NEVER authorized??

FTC Staff
September 22, 2022

In reply to by W.R. Casebolt

You can contact your bank and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices to the FTC at www.ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

Charlotte Crisman
October 25, 2022

In reply to by W.R. Casebolt

I frequently receive scam emails, showing I've been billed for products I did not order. I don't know exactly what to do other than forward it to FTC?

John Cappelletti
September 21, 2022

So what are the names of these companies so we can avoid dealing with them?

mike keleshian
September 21, 2022

It's about time the government is doing something about all these misleading ADs you keep seeing on TV...

Brookes Ross
September 21, 2022

I would like to see more done about companies and manipulation. Especially crypto platforms and manipulating our transaction documents. I have printed hundred of documents this year. They are all different. They all seem to change to only benefit themselves. I don’t know who else to send this info too. But nothing is being done about it. It needs to stop for the integrity of our system. I feel like our markets have little to no integrity these days especially the brokers. What a conflict of interest if anything when these companies ban me from their platform without an answer to a formal complaint. These unregulated companies should at least be held accountable to bad business practice.

Charles
September 21, 2022

Thanx for the info. Keep them coming

Ronald M. Carter
September 21, 2022

Thanks for the tips you offer to consumers like me.

Wesley Mayes
September 21, 2022

I have noticed that when they are offering something for free or a free trial period, they want your credit card number. Like you said then they start charging your card and you have a problem getting it canceled and your money back. I think if it is a free service or free period, they should not be allowed to have your credit card number till you see if you want it. I also hate it when they say its free and you go to the trouble of entering all your shipping info and then they say there is a charge. If it says free it should be free or tell you that there is a charge.

Stacey Hattendorf
September 21, 2022

I wish the FTC protected consumers. I’ve had multiple issues from a company ( as other people have too) and nothing has been done. The owner is taking his money and buying expensive houses and cars after ripping us all off!

FTC Staff
September 22, 2022

In reply to by Stacey Hattendorf

Please report scams, fraud, and bad business practices to the FTC at www.ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

Wynne Linden
September 26, 2022

In reply to by Stacey Hattendorf

Stacey,
"I wish the FTC protected consumers."
This is why the FTC exists - to protect consumers.

Consumers have to report with documentation in order for the FTC to "protect" us.

Did everyone report this guy? To the FTC? To the FBI? To the local police, even? I doubt it very much. Perhaps a few. The FTC needs to see the issue as big before they can dedicate costly resources (including the time to scour 1 single complaint verses hundreds of complaints. A single complaint is hard to take seriously because it could just be a consumer with sour grapes over a purchase or "buyers remorse." Multiple reports triggers the FTC to take time to investigate.

Adel Easterday
September 21, 2022

I am so afraid anymore that I never buy anything online. It took forever but I even got rid of my Amazon account.

Sylvia Hernandez
September 27, 2022

In reply to by Adel Easterday

I canceled my Amazon account also. I don’t want anything to do with them anymore. Deceptive practices, poor quality merchandise and poor customer service.

jack
September 21, 2022

I've seen all these scamming patterns before, but sometimes one forgets when distracted. Thank you for reminding by reviewing this again.

Kim
September 22, 2022

Right at this moment I'm being told my package delivered from Shein. It has not.

Sharon Wright
September 22, 2022

This was a great article. It took me 2days to read it, but it was well worth it. Thanks so much.

Bradley Ather
September 26, 2022

Thanks for the update.

azure
September 30, 2022

FTA "They hide fees and charges until late in the buying process." So how is it that a majority of Congress can't agree on legislation that would enable people to file citizen's suits (get attorney fees awarded if they get a favorable decision) and/or class actions to get compensation/restitution and punitive damages when that happens? Instead, Congress has REFUSED to pass legislation requiring the airlines to show all fees & takes BEFORE someone completes flight reservations. Along w/all the other businesses that aren't required to provide the same information before a purchase is made.

I'm tired of Congress failing to strengthen consumer rights & protections because they rely so heavily on corporate donations, and that Congress refuses to override the S.Ct decision in Citizens United, which Congress CAN do. Tired of living in a nation that is increasingly ruled by corporations not the people (and not just wealthy people along w/corporations).

Tiffany Johnson
September 26, 2022

I want to know how to file report for this. I fell victim if you call it that to Invent help. But he smoothed it out so goos never explained I couldnt get my money back. That was never mentioned. I told him my situation and he was lije just do this much to start to get started and in this many months. I'll see where you are and maybe I can start paying a little more. But my situation got worse. I been trying to get my money back ever since and he wont give it to me. So how can I get it back.

Donaphine L Shamburg
September 26, 2022

The reportfraud.ftc.gov website does not always work. Messages come back saying your message cannot be accepted!!

Kelly
October 25, 2022

The thing is... it can be worse than they described... it is a lot bigger... what about the big purchases that are contracted online... you could be in my situation right now... and not one single person will help me or can... mine has to do with a car dealership... or should I say three.. I purchased a car online in May, 2022. Found out car was a dealer states away.. not one person explained the situation or how it was... I believed their site... Signed up with this specific dealer because of what their website stated... it lured me in.. deceptiveness is real... the site said I am in control.. the vehicle's are theirs at different dealers around the country... and I fell for it... I went with my own financing only so I wouldn't have markups and extra fees. I did my research and got financing from a few places. I told the dealer... and filled out their papers and Proposal. Few weeks later signed first docs for purchase. They lied about delivery date.. got me stuck for a month in a state far away... but had to get insurance in June for proof.. then signed new papers why? They never had title to the car... after about 4 times lying about delivery and I was upset.. another dealer popped into picture.. never knew why but thought it was to help.. finally received car in July..then few weeks later... yoyo financing... my loan fell through but got me a better deal they said.. I believed them... kept signing papers in August... it is now end of August... still never received any signed papers even after months of asking... then poof.. those two dealers disappear... temp plate expired... then days later... another dealer pops off.. the one where the car was at... admitted they never sent in paperwork for my car... I kept on them about title, registration, paperwork.. finally this ones sends "some" paperwork and not all that I signed... oh everything was done electronically.. and I thought they had to protect my info, my signature, I thought they couldn't alter docs... thought they had to send executed docs right away.. thought they couldn't change anything without me being involved.. thought all of this because of ESIGN Act... well boy was I wrong... no authoritative copy... not at all. I can say this... forgery... altering.. and lots of fraud... not my credit app that i filled out.. and definitely thousands more than I make... still never knew lender.. until now.. I have extra fees... high finance chargers but why? I had my own financing.. and my lender is one that I gave them that I was preapproved for... but they are charging me thousands and why? They didn't get it, I did... there are docs I never signed... disclosures I never received... and altering and fraud everywhere... to date... no registration.. no title... I do not exist as the owner.. but I have a loan.. and a car I cannot use... this caused me to lose my job.. to lose everything I worked so hard for... and the kicker... after research.. all three companies are the same.. owned by one... and not the one I gave my credit app to... but all three did multiple inquiries on credit.. and 4 other inquiries with lenders I already had preapprovals for.. and then some others on top of that... so far my credit went down 150 points.. and still going.. and these companies are threatening me... BUYER BEWARE especially when big purchases come into play.. you do not want to be where I am right now.. young child who depends on me.. lost everything.. losing our home... creditors non stop calling.. all because of deceptive companies who stole my money and ruined my life.. yes.. they have $3,000 of my money on top of it all... and I tried calling every single agency, lawyer, anyone that would listen for help... not one person can or will... I guess the big dogs will take our lives and not a thing we can do about it... they will always win... and I will lose my kid.... thank you everyone.... just consumers... please take this all in.. please don't let this happen to you.... I have no hope anymore... not after 5 months of this....

Carolyn Meredith
November 17, 2022

Recently I was tricked into an online purchase which was unintended, immediately called and was told the charge was removed, had not been ,so called another number which showed up the next day on my statement, and was told that it was was removed, which after checking my statement again ,it was not.The purchase was flixoo via tanrein. this occurred while I was attempting to sign up for "radio paradise" on roku. So, watch out.T he way they slipped this in was clever.