While not all offers of a “free” trial of a product from a company are scams, this is the basis of many sams.  The 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 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.  This business practice is called negative option continuity plans and they are highly regulated by the FTC which requires clear and conspicuous disclosure of all relevant terms of the offer as well as require that the company get the expressed informed consent of the customer before charging their credit cards.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled a legal action against Apex Capital Group, its principals and twelve corporate defendants used by Apex to hide the money it fraudulently obtained through phony free offers and improper negative option continuity plans regarding its personal care products and dietary supplements.


This scam is very easy to avoid.  If there ever was an offer that was too good to be true, this is it.  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 by fraudulent charges on 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.  Particularly be on the lookout for negative option continuity plans not conspicuously disclosed.

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