OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — Fake celebrity endorsements, and so-called free trial offers are often used as a tool by scammers. In the last 10 years more than a billion dollars have been lost to these online scams. However, knowing the red flags could help you think twice before handing out your card information to the wrong people.
You might thing that you are trying a product for free, but that's far from the truth. In its study, the Better Business Bureau breaks down the free trail scam:
You decide you want to try a “free trial” of a product and agree to pay the shipping. However, in the BBB example the consumer is actually signing on to pay $94.31 for a trial pack and a monthly membership. Then the consumer is charged another $94.31 for a second product without even knowing it-- paying a total of $188.26.
“Making sure you are not just throwing your credit card information out there is always a big thing. However, if you do shop online a lot we always say, make sure you use your credit card because that credit card has added protections through that financial institution,” recommends Sean Rose, with the BBB of Central Oklahoma.
The BBB says it has gotten complaints about free trial offers that seem to be endorsed by celebrities, but it was all a lie. Trying to attach a celebrity name to a product is one of the oldest ticks in the book.
“Generally, when you see these fake celebrity endorsements with everything but the celebrity being on camera saying -- I endorse this product -- it compels them, and it makes them very, very interested, and they are like oh this famous person tried it,” says Rose of the reason this is a persistent issue.
In its study, the BBB even points to a live website as an example to watch for. It looks like a news page,
seemingly pointing to the effectiveness of a face cream and seemingly pointing to celebrity connections, but if you scroll all the way down, there is a statement that says there are no actual endorsements.
and saying it's not responsible for consumers "misunderstanding."
A link to the product does not have any information on the cost. The BBB says that legally a company is required to have all billing and product information upfront. It must also have the consumers express consent on all the charges, and they must have a simple way to stop recurring charges. If any of that is missing and you run into trouble, you can contact your bank and file a complaint with the BBB.