FREE Trial Offer….. many new products and services come with these enticing words and sway many consumers to feel as if it is a great deal. While these words may sound enticing, often ‘free trial offers’ are scams to take your hard earned money. Consumers are being misled into auto-enroll subscriptions when signing up for the free trial. Then month after month the credit card is billed, often without you ever knowing.
Free-trial schemes have cost Americans close to $1.3 billion in the past decade. How does this happen? Many times, the offers are not truly free. There could be minor purchases required for the free trial to kick in, there could be activation fees, and there could even be return shipping charges if you’ve received a “free” test item that you want to send back.
Free trial offers are not worth the time, effort, and potential risks most of the time. You may open yourself up to more trouble than you want. Here are the main reasons to avoid free trial offers.
1. Offering Up Your Personal Information
At the very least, in order to register for most offers, you need to give out your email address. While this may seem innocuous enough, sharing your email can open you up to new hassles. For one, your inbox will be bombarded with junk mail you don’t want. Furthermore, if the company sells its customer lists to other companies, the number of spam emails you get will increase exponentially. You could even be signed up to receive snail mail advertisements or catalogs.
Most offers will also require that you submit your credit card number. While this is generally safe, there is always some risk of identity theft when sharing your financial information online (especially if you don’t really plan on paying for anything). Weigh these negatives against the potential value of the offer before making your final decision.
2. Difficult Cancellation Process
It is much more difficult to cancel a free trial than to start one. Although you sign up online, you might have to cancel over the phone. These calls can take forever. Remember, the companies don’t want you to cancel the offer. They have absolutely no motivation to make the cancellation process easy or convenient.
Sometimes even when you call to cancel an offer you end up getting charged and have to call back to make the same request. It always helps to note the time, date, and the name of the person you spoke with to add some pressure to get them to take action.
3. Are You Going to Remember to Cancel?
It is your responsibility to cancel the service by the end of the free trial. After all, companies make money when people forget to cancel and you might not notice until you see an unusual charge on your credit card bill. If you’re not in the habit of checking the statement for your credit card or debit card on a monthly basis, the cost to you could be even higher.
So if you decide to sign up for a free trial, mark the cancellation deadline on your calendar and set up an alert (through your cell phone or an online tool like Google Calendars) to make sure you remember to cancel before the trial period expires.
Think twice before signing up for random services you don’t need just because they’re “free.” There are too many risks involved, and if you’re not careful, these offers can cost you a lot of money.
If you have to enter your credit card number, that’s a red flag. Also, read through the fine print and find out what the cancellation process entails before you move forward. Another tip is to do an online search for the company or product with the words “review”, “complaint” and “scam” to find potential issues.
Rest assured, not all free trials have issues. Free trial offers can be legitimate ways to introduce new products. Credible companies make sure consumers understand what they are signing up for and do not hide key information. But overall, there are far more disadvantages to free trial offers than advantages.
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