“Free” online offers can come with a hidden price tag

Before you click an online “Try it Free!” button or sign up for a free trial product or service, understand that sometimes “free” comes with a price tag. Knowing the pitfalls and following a few basic guidelines can protect you and your finances.

Your personal data is shared. Trials require you to divulge at least your name and email, and possibly your phone, address, gender, age or other data, subjecting you to spam and junk mail. Companies often sell your data, leading to more spam and junk mail. Worse, your circulated information can expose you to fraud.

You might actually pay something. Some companies require an activation fee or a minor purchase before your free trial begins. If you’re not satisfied with your freebie, you’ll pay to ship it back. Some trials are really a ruse to send you more products, which you then have to pay for.

Forget to cancel and pay for it. All trials have an end date. If you’re not paying attention, your trial period turns into a pay period.

Cancellation is difficult. Some companies make canceling intentionally hard. Even if you jump through all their hoops, your request could be forgotten, and you’ll wind up with charges or merchandise you don’t want.

Avoid getting taken for a “free” ride
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has tips for helping you avoid getting taken for a “free” ride.

Research the company. Research the company and its offers. You may turn up a lot, including both praises and complaints from past consumers.

Know the terms and conditions. Understand exactly what you’re getting into and how easy or difficult it is to cancel if you decide it’s not for you. Never sign up for something you don’t fully understand.

Uncheck pre-checked boxes. Pre-checked boxes on signup forms can commit you to receiving additional products, allow your personal data to be sold or waive your right to the cancellation period.

Mark your calendar. Cancel your trial before the deadline, or risk having to buy products or services you don’t want.

Monitor your credit card and bank accounts. Check your accounts regularly to make sure there are no charges for things you didn’t order. If you see something suspicious, talk to your credit card issuer immediately.

If you do fall victim, report it to the FTC online.

Article provided by Local Government Federal Credit Union.
The advice provided is for information purposes only. Consult your financial advisor for additional guidance.