Scams, Rogue Traders and Doorstep Crime

Beware Of ‘Free Trials’ Scams

Complaints continue to be received from consumers responding to adverts for ‘free trials’ of services, including beauty treatments, slimming products and health products.

Consumers select the ‘free trial’ option on the internet or via leaflets received in the post, and have to give their bank details to pay a small amount for postage and packaging. They later find out that a much larger amount has been taken from their account without their knowledge; some people have lost up to £100 per month.

These ‘free’ trials may also require you to return goods at the end of the trial period. If you do not then even more money will be taken from your bank account to cover this. It can often be difficult to actually return the goods because you are asked to send them abroad, or to get a returns number from a telephone number that no one ever answers.

When reading the small print it is revealed that a monthly subscription contract has been signed up to. Some consumers have been charged for several months before they realised what had happened. The contracts are usually difficult to cancel and consumers may be locked into a Continuous Payment Authority, which is tricky to get out of.

Consumers are advised to check the small print very carefully on any ‘free trial’ offer that they see. Often the terms and conditions are not clear; they are only accessible via a link at the bottom of the webpage, or they are on the back of any postal adverts. Consumers therefore need to take great care before entering their bank details. (Some legitimate ‘free trials’ may automatically lead to monthly subscriptions if not cancelled, but these offers will be completely upfront about this before you sign up, as well as having a clear and simple way to cancel during your ‘trial’).

Although these businesses often appear to be in the UK, they are often based overseas and use a UK address. There are a large number of these businesses offering a wide range of different types of products.

In addition to the potential for consumers to lose out financially, the products themselves are often of little use.

If you have been a victim of one of these scams please report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Top tips:

  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain that you can trust the person contacting you;
  • Contacted out of the blue – be suspicious;
  • ALWAYS read the terms and conditions – if you are not happy, don’t sign up
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is

If you believe that you are the victim of a scam or that there is a scammer in your community please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 to let us know and help us to continue the fight against scammers. You can also report scams to Action Fraud.

For more information on scams in general please see our Scam Page.