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Illustration of a price tag.
Illustration of a price tag.
Illustration of a price tag.

Published April 12, 2017.
Updated July 30, 2021.

CBD gummies, diet pills, and other "risk-free" offers can cost you.

Social media, websites, and apps are packed with free offers and free trials for streaming services, cosmetics, diet pills, razors, CBD oil, gyms, dating apps, teeth whitening, and more. Yet, ironically, many of these trials are anything but free.

Musician Austin Agee wrote a song about free trials, performed here in front of a Bennington flag that commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Free trials are sometimes marketed as "Risk-free trials." The offers typically require you to provide a debit or credit card number for payment while you try out the product or service. If you fail to cancel within a certain number of days, the payment is swept from your account with few options to recover your money.

Crystal Nielsen, STCU's payment operations assistant manager, says some free trials end up costing consumers a lot of money. STCU and other financial institutions often are unable to help because members have already agreed to terms and conditions for the trial, which they probably never read or understood.

"Pay close attention to what you are signing up for online," Nielsen says. "Ask yourself, 'Is the free product worth the time, trouble, and money it might cost me later?'"

"Ask yourself: 'Is the free product worth the time, trouble, and money it might cost me later?'"

Free trials are no stranger to the Federal Trade Commission. It warns that some companies make it difficult to cancel your trial offer, publishing strict restrictions of cancellations in the fine print or using prechecked boxes online to "sign you up" for products or services without your knowledge.

Remember the advice from Austin, the musician: "Free trials seem good at the time; forget to cancel it, and you'll be nickel-and-dimed. Before you start to clicking, use your intuition. Read those terms and conditions."

And if you can, try to report fraud to the FTC.



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