When browsing some of your favorite websites, you may have seen links for free trials of certain products. Some are more believable than others, but according to the Better Business Bureau, almost all are scams.
The free trial scam has been around for years, but the number of consumer complaints pertaining to free trial fraud has skyrocketed in recent years, making it one of the most common and effective scams affecting consumers, says the BBB in a December 2018 report.
Citing data from the Federal Trade Commission, the BBB notes that complaints relating to free trial scams more than doubled from 2015-2017. Federal data says that consumer losses in free trial scams pursued by the trade commission in the last 10 years total more than $1.3 billion.
The anatomy of the scam is simple: Garner interest in a supposedly effective product, and hook people for recurring charges that are often in the very fine print and difficult to fully understand at the time of purchase.
The scam starts with the product, appealing advertising, a well-designed website and often a fake celebrity endorsement designed to increase the credibility of the product. What comes next is shipping, often the small initial charge that requires payment information to be entered to receive a free trial, followed by payment processing and finally, poor or unavailable customer service.
-Connor Pregizer reporting for MTN News