Reader's Digest Asia Pacific
Free trial offer!
(AKA THE ‘JUST PAY FOREVER’ SCAM)
HOW IT WORKS You see an internet offer for a free one-month trial of some amazing product – often a teeth whitener or a weight-loss programme. All you need to pay is $5.95 for shipping and handling. WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON Buried in fine print, often in a light colour, are terms that obligate you to pay $79 to $99 a month in fees, forever. THE BIG PICTURE “These guys are really shrewd,” says Christine Durst, an internet fraud expert. “They know that most people don’t read all the fine print before clicking on ‘I agree’,
and even people who glance at it just look for numbers. So the companies spell out the numbers, with no dollar signs; anything that has to do with money or a time frame gets washed into the text.” That’s exactly what you’ll see in the terms for Xtreme Cleanse, a weight-loss pill that ends up costing “seventy-nine dollars ninety-five cents plus five dollars and ninety-five cents shipping and handling” every month once the 14-day free trial period ends or until you cancel. HOW TO AVOID Read the fine print on offers, and don’t believe every testimonial. Check https://tineye.com, a search engine that scours the web for identical photos. If that woman with perfect teeth shows up promoting different products, you can be fairly certain her ‘testimonial’ is bogus. Reputable companies will allow you to cancel, but if you can’t get out of a ‘contract’, cancel your credit card, then negotiate a refund; if that doesn’t work, appeal to your credit card company.