Sometimes "free" offers aren't what they seem.
- Contact feels pressured to sign up or make a purchase immediately. Ads stress urgency with comments like "Limited quantities available," "Only 97 free trials left!" and some sites have a timed count down before the offer expires. When trying to leave many of the websites, a warning pops up trying to convince the consumer to rethink the offer.
- E-mails contain several misspellings and obvious grammar mistakes; it may appear to be from someone outside of the country.
- Web ads may contain overhyped testimonials or link to blogs that appear to be from a third party raving about the product; but sometimes these are actually created by the business.
Consumers are offered a "free trial" of a product or service. Sometimes the word "trial" is not used and it only says "free." They a simply told they need to pay shipping. Consumers who place an order without reading the fine print may not realize that they must cancel the "trial" by a certain date. Sometimes the date is before they receive the first product. If payment information was provided for "shipping" costs, consumers who don't cancel the trial may notice repeat charges on their statements. They later find out they are being billed for a program, subscription or membership; and in some cases, continually receive unwanted products. Some have trouble reaching the business after they realize they are getting billed unwillingly.
- Get business contact information. Avoid companies that won't provide basic information, such as the full business name and address.
- Research businesses. Visit www.bbb.org to get a BBB Reliability Report.
- Check for business licensing.
- Get information in writing. Don't rely on verbal promises.
- Read the fine print. Understand terms, conditions, privacy policies and return policies.
- Only make online purchases on secure sites: Before the web address there should be an "s" in "https". The "s" means the site is secure.
- Use a credit card. They offer more protections than debit cards and other payment forms.
- Avoid telemarketing calls. Register with the National Do Not Call Registry to avoid telemarketing calls by visiting www.DoNotCall.gov or calling 888-382-1222. This does not prevent charity or political calls.
If there is a problem with a business you can't resolve on your own, file a BBB complaint at www.bbb.org.
Report scams to the:
- Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov
- State Attorney General's Office
- Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, if the offer came by e-mail or online.