You’ve probably seen many of these offers in the Internet. Some merchant offers a free trial on a product or service, followed by a monthly fee if you don’t cancel. While many of these merchants are legitimate and obey the law, some don’t. Case in point: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently stopped an online marketing scheme that it alleges scammed consumers out of more than $450 million. The FTC says the scheme used “free” or “risk-free” offers to entice consumers and then billed them for items they didn’t know they were purchasing, or that they didn’t agree to purchase.
Protect yourself when shopping online. If you sign up for a free trial offer on the Internet, always read the terms and conditions. Know what you have to do to cancel the transaction before the offer expires. Write your last day to cancel on your calendar. Many of these offers, too, require some sort of payment information before you can even begin your free trial. If you don’t cancel before the free trial offer expires, chances are that you will automatically be billed.
Keep written records of such offers you sign up for and keep them in a place where you will remember to look at them. You don’t want to get billed for something that you forgot to cancel. Make sure you are doing business with a reputable merchant. The Internet has made it easy for all sorts of people to start their own businesses or money-making ventures. You wouldn’t give your sensitive financial information to anyone you see in public, so don’t give it to any merchant you find online. Research the company well to make sure they are legitimate.
As this alleged scheme reminds us, many online scammers work full-time to steal peoples’ money. With some research, you can dramatically lower your odds of becoming a victim.