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BBB warns about free-trial scams

NEW YORK — Debbie Wagner decided to give it a try – a skincare cream called Dermiva. All she had to do was pay a minimal charge of around $6 to $7 for shipping for a free trial. But when she got the product she quickly learned she didn’t like it.

But a month later, Wagner said another shipment of the face cream showed up at her door along with an eye serum from the same company, that she says she never ordered. To make matters worse, she said she’d been billed $89 dollars for the face cream and about $70 dollars for the eye serum.

“It’s like $160 a month.”

“For how many months?”

“Four months,” she said.

When she called customer service, they told her she’d signed up for it.

“Did you ever see any disclaimers or information on the web page, on the ad, that said if you sign up for this you’re going to have continuing shipments?”

“No.”

Buried in fine print it said if she didn’t return the product in 14 days, she’d be getting monthly shipments of a product she didn’t want.

Wagner is not alone. The Better Business Bureau found complaints about “free trials” more than doubled between 2015 and 2017. Consumers who complained lost an average of $186. Seventy-two percent of them were females.

“You’ve got a tremendous number of people who think there’s not much risk, that’s it’s just a buck or two to try this thing out, then they find “Oh my god, I’ve really been conned! It’s a trap, I can’t get out of it,'” said Steve Baker.

The FTC and BBB have some tips on free trials. If you have to enter your credit card number, that’s a red flag. Also, do read the fine print and check your bank and credit card statements regularly.

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