BBB: Don’t be fooled by free trial offers

Posted at 10:08 AM, Dec 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-18 14:58:33-05

Free trial offers.

You’ve likely seen them online, where ads pop up on social media and other websites offering to send various products your way, as long as you pay the shipping. According to the Better Business Bureau, those ads aren’t necessarily always what they appear to be.

In many cases, the name or picture of a celebrity endorser is used (without their consent) to draw your attention to products offering easy weight loss, whiter teeth or disappearing wrinkles. Victims reported that about 30 percent  of these ads are found on social media.

Once they have your attention, you’re asked to enter your name, address and credit card number to pay for a nominal shipping and handling charges, and that’s when the scam comes in to play. Those who enter their credit information often find that they are then either charged full payment for the item, or get stuck in a recurring monthly charge that’s difficult to get out of.

As for returning the item, good luck. It usually becomes difficult to get in touch with the company involved and if you do, you discover that the fine print makes it very difficult for the purchaser.

The BBB says they have received nearly 37,000 complaints and scam tracker reports about free trials over the last three years. The majority of victims are female (72%), with slightly more in the 30-39 age group.

For those who want to avoid falling prey to a scam or who may have already begun one of these free trial offers, the BBB suggests the following:

  • Read the fine print. If you’re really wanting to purchase an item from a website you’re unfamiliar with, make sure to read all the details located in the fine print about possible recurring charges, additional charges and the return policy.
  • Research the product. Notice the reviews and cross check phone numbers and details online. Make sure to search the company at to see information about its history of complaints and advertising concerns.
  • Report to your credit card company. If you have already started one of these free trial offers and noticed additional charges you weren’t expecting, or find it difficult to get in touch with the company to stop recurring charges, contact your credit card company. You may be able to get that item charged back and stop future payments.
  • Register a complaint. File a complaint with BBB at or report it to BBB Scam Tracker at You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center.

Go HERE to see the BBB’s eye-opening study on some of these free trial offers.

Got a question for the BBB? Contact Regional Director Kelly Trevino at  or call (361) 852-4991.