Somewhere in the fine print of a too-good-to-be-true online offer lies what the true cost of your purchase may turn out to be. By handing over your credit card information and checking the “accept all terms and conditions” box without reading and fully understanding them, you may have set yourself up for a re-occurring monthly subscription at a much higher price. They can be very difficult to get out of, and you may not even realize what is going on until the charges appear on your credit card statement. They may stipulate that in order to cancel the subscription, you have to pay the outstanding balance owed, return the sample, return the unused portion, return it to a different country than you bought it from, or other ridiculous cancellation terms.
March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada and to raise awareness the Competition Bureau has published “The Little Black Book of Scams”, which includes the following:
Good deals can bait you into falling for expensive traps!
A subscription trap can trick you by offering “free” or “low-cost” trials of products and services. Products commonly offered are weight loss pills, health foods, pharmaceuticals and anti-ageing products.
Once you provide your credit card information to cover shipping costs, you are unknowingly locked into a monthly subscription. Delivery and billing can then be difficult, if not almost impossible, to stop.
Scammers use websites, emails, social media platforms and phones to reel people in. Remember, high-pressure sales tactics like a “limited time offer” are often used to rush you into making a decision.
Tips to protect yourself:
- Trust your instincts. If it’s too good to be true, don’t sign up.
- Before you sign up for a free trial, research the company and read reviews; especially the negative ones. The Better Business Bureau is a great source of information.
- Don’t sign up if you can’t find or understand the terms and conditions. Pay special attention to pre-checked boxes, cancellation clauses, return policies, and any vague charges.
- If you go ahead with a free trial, keep all documents, receipts, emails, and text messages.
- Regularly check your credit card statements for frequent or unknown charges.
- If you have trouble cancelling your subscription, contact your credit card provider, your local consumer protection organization, or law enforcement agencies.
Source: Competition Bureau Canada