You’ve heard it said, “The best things in life are free.” But the “free” offers on the internet, television and phone are rarely that. These “free” offers often require you to give your debit or credit card information to pay for shipping, future products, or service costs. Many times the fees are charged after an initial trial period that requires you to end the service.
While it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll remember to cancel the item before any fees hit your card, it’s not always so simple. Some deceitful businesses hide the terms and conditions of their offers in a small font or use pre-checked sign-up boxes as a default setting.
After charges on these offers are made, your chargeback rights as a consumer are limited. As your bank, we are unable to claim these charges as fraudulent since they were signed for and approved by you, even if it was deceitful. So, the best way to avoid these unwanted fees is to not get tangled in them in the first place.
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to help you avoid these unwanted fees:
Research the company online. See what other people are saying about the company’s free trials — and its service. Complaints from other customers can tip you off to “catches” that might come with the trial.
Find the terms and conditions for the offer. That includes offers online, on TV, in the newspaper, or on the radio. If you can’t find them or don’t understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, don’t sign up.
Look for who’s behind the offer. Just because you’re buying something online from one company doesn’t mean the offer or pop-up isn’t from someone else.
Watch out for pre-checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, look for already-checked boxes. That checkmark may give the company the green light to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products — only this time you have to pay.
Mark your calendar. Your free trial probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you telling the company to cancel your “order,” you may be on the hook for more products.
Look for information on how you can cancel future shipments or services. If you don’t want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?
Read your monthly bank statement and review your account online often for suspicious activity. You’ll know right away if you’re being charged for something you didn’t order.