Public warned of online ‘free trial’ scams during coronavirus pandemic

With people spending more time online during the coronavirus pandemic, scams offering “free trials” are luring in unsuspecting consumers, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

The organization is warning online users to be on high alert.

“Whether it’s weight-loss pills or some form of cosmetics, what tends to happen is in the rush to sign up for these things, consumers are getting tied into subscription traps and that result in them being charged multiple times for something they only planned to spend on once,” said BBB Lower Mainland B.C. spokesperson Karla Laird.

The BBB says free trial offers are not illegal, but the ads — which often appear on social media sites — are misleading.

In fact, the BBB says the true cost of these “free” trials is the ongoing monthly subscription fees consumers receive when they sign up for a product.

It’s a detail which is often buried in fine print and sometimes not disclosed at all.

Scammers will often use fake celebrity endorsement ads to attract customers to deceptive websites.

“Don’t be quick to jump for a product because it seems endorsed by a celebrity,” said Laird.

Also troubling, the BBB says it has received reports scammers are using social media to offer bogus free Netflix services which involve clicking on a link to a website asking for personal information.

The BBB says scammers are likely phishing for personal and banking information or trying to distribute malware.

To protect yourself, the BBB suggests the following:

  • Read the fine print. Many free trial offers come with fine print buried on the order page that often states by accepting the offer you are signing up for monthly shipments of the products and the appropriate fees will be charged to your credit card
  • Make sure the website is legitimate and you can locate the terms and conditions and read them
  • Look for a physical address of the company and not a P.O. Box
  • Read reviews

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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