Last year I told you about Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill warning people about “free trial” scams. These scams begin with ads that appear to offer a free trial of a product with the consumer only being required to pay a small shipping and handling charge. These ads, which are for many products, but most commonly weight loss products  and often feature fake celebrity endorsements. While there are companies that indeed do offer free trials of their products, the scammers use fine print that the consumer never reads or even sees that charge the victim of the scam’s credit card for the product if it is not returned within a few days. Making things even worse, many of the scammers also automatically enroll the victims of the scam to receive monthly deliveries of their products, all of which are paid for by the credit card which the victim of the scam provided thinking the card was only to be charged the small fee for shipping and handling of their “free” product. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mailed 227,000 refund checks to victims of phony weight loss products and supplements sold by Health Formulas LLC and a number of other related companies who perpetrated this type of scam.  According to the FTC, Health Formulas LLC lured victims with “free trials” and tricked their victims into providing their credit and debit card information.  Health Formulas LLC then enrolled their victims into a program with continuing automatic monthly payments for their bogus weight loss products.

Now the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people about a variation of this scam which doesn’t even try to trick you into a “free trial” of their products, but merely involves ads often appearing on your social media that offer free clothing, toys and other products at absolutely no cost to you.  You only have to pay for the shipping.  The problem is that after you provide your credit or debit card to pay for the shipping costs, you  never get anything in return and lose the money that you paid through your credit or debit card.

TIPS

This scam is very easy to avoid.  If there ever was an offer that was too good to be true, this is it.  No legitimate business can stay in business offering its products for nothing.  This is also a good time to remind you to never use your debit card for purchases.  Only use your credit card.  If you are scammed through your credit card, you can easily get the charges taken off of your credit card.  The consumer protection laws that govern debit cards are not as strong and if you delay notifying the bank where the account tied to your debit card is located, you can potentially lose everything in that bank account with no recourse.

As for weight loss products, the truth is that there are no quick fixes when it comes to weight loss and you should be wary of any product that promises you can lose tremendous amounts of weight quickly without dieting or exercise.  You should also be wary of any weight loss product that is sold exclusively either over the Internet or through mail-order advertisements.  It is also important to remember that no cream that you rub in your skin can help you lose substantial weight and no product can block the absorption of fat or calories.  The best course of action is to ask your physician about the effectiveness of a particular weight loss product or program before you reduce your wallet in an effort to reduce your waistline.

Finally, there never is a reason to provide your credit or debit card information for a “free” offer. Also, because there rarely is anything fine in fine print, it is important whenever you purchase something to read the fine print that contains the terms of what you have agreed to.

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