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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s a new warning about health and beauty products that offer so-called risk-free trial samples. The Better Business Bureau warns the risk-free trial offers are not free, and in many cases, there are strings attached, and the important terms and conditions can be hard to spot when ordering on a mobile device.
You sign up to pay $4 or $5 for a “free trial” sample of wrinkle cream or weight loss pills and then the next month’s bill arrives.
“I call it the bait and switch,” said victim Trude Heatherly. “They baited me into it and they started charging me.”
It’s a common complaint that’s been heard over the years.
“I don’t have $200 to throw out the window for a cream,” said Roxanne Barnes. “I would never do that.”
Many of the products are sold using fake celebrity endorsements.
“It’s a fake company, it’s a scam,” said Pauley Perrette.
Now, the FTC, the U.S. Postal Service, the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau are joining forces to address subscription traps.
“I think that people feel duped,” said Phylissia Clark of the Better Business Bureau.
The bureau has received almost 37,000 “free trial” complaints since 2015. Experts say credit cards play a huge role in the schemes, and that’s why the bureau is urging credit card companies to do more, such as identifying suspicious activity and ensuring victims receive charge-backs.
“We definitely encourage the credit card companies and the banks to work with us and other agencies to see if they can find ways to alert them that these companies are on the list,” said Clark.
The bureau is asking internet providers and social media companies to do the same by vetting ads on their sites. Consumers are advised to use extreme caution.
If you get stuck in a scam, you can try calling the 800 number next to the charge on your credit card statement and cancel your subscription, then request a charge-back from your bank or credit card company.
You can file complaints with the bureau, the FTC, the USPS and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.