'Deceptive free trials and subscription traps' costing consumers millions, BBB warns

    BBB warns consumer to read all the fine print to avoid costly "free trial"

    Birmingham, AL (WBMA)- Those free trial ads for products can be tempting. You see them all over social media. But an investigation by the Better Business Bureau found those ads can be deceptive and in some cases an outright scam.

    With promises of weight loss, whiter teeth, and wrinkle repair the free trials get your attention. The BBB's David Smitherman says once you sign on the dotted line it's hard to cancel that free subscription and even harder to get your money back.

    The BBB survey logged 2,400 complaints nationwide and $5.6 million dollars lost. An estimated 72 percent of the victims are women. "It's critical you read the fine print. Know exactly what the time period is to return the samples," warns Smitherman.

    Some of the complaints from customers here in Alabama:

    "I was told I could not return what I have because I actually opened and tried one product like I was supposed to do." She's out $90 charged to her credit card and $10 for shipping.

    Another customer complains: "There is not a refund available for a product that is a joke."

    And a Clanton woman tells us she's out $145 and "it took an act of congress to stop the subscription."

    "The free trial, is not free at all," says Smitherman. In some cases you may have only 14 days to try the product and return it or you get hit with charges of 100 dollars or more.

    Of those who applied for a full refund with their credit cards the BBB found:

    • 42% got the full refund
    • 14% percent a partial refund
    • 44% none at all

    Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Chrissy Teigen, Ellen Degeneres, Tim Allen and Sally Field say their pictures are being used in these ads without their knowledge or permission. The celebrity endorsements in many cases are fake.

    If you would like to file a complaint the BBB recommends:

    • Complain to the company directly.
    • If that is not successful call the customer service number on the back of your credit card to complain to the bank.
    • Complain to www.bbb.org
    • Report the fraud to www.bbb.org/scamtracker
    • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call 877-FTC-Help
    • Report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3
    • Report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Toll free from the US at 1-888-495-8501.
    • In Canada you can also complain directly to the Competition Bureau.
    • Report suspicious, confusing or misleading ads to BBB AdTruth.

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