BBB: Read the fine print in free trials, gym memberships

Listen to KID NewsRadio’s full interview with Jeremy Johnson, Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific regions

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — New year, new you and for some scammers, new ways to trick people out of their hard earned money through free trial programs.

“A lot of times, especially with the new year, we’re looking for new healthy products,” Jeremy Johnson, Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau in the Northwest + Pacific regions, told KID NewsRadio. “People are starting anew, whether it’s a free trial, you know, for a new clothing line or you know, vitamins, a variety of things, and the BBB has done an investigative study about free trials. With the help of the Federal Trade Commission…over the past 10 years, people have lost $1.3 billion in free trials, in trying these free trials. So, while it seems free, it is coming at a big cost to consumers.”

Some recent attempts and scams have even gone as far as to use the identities of celebrities without their permission.

“The first step is just luring you in, getting you excited about it,” Johnson said. “For example, if you see a product and you see Oprah Winfrey is endorsing it, or Ellen Degeneres or someone that you may see on television a lot.. a lot of times these celebrities, they’re livelihood, their persona is being used illegally and it is being taken without them knowing that.”

Deciphering the real free trials, and endorsements, from the fake ploys used by scammers isn’t terribly difficult. Johnson said guarding against free trial scams takes a little bit of time and reading into the fine print.

“If you read the fine print, if you click and you read and read, maybe page three, paragraph 14 says that they didn’t have permission to use this,” Johnson said. “So, they are in some cases stating it somewhere, but it’s somewhere that you may never see.”

Not all free trial offers are scams, Johnson emphasized. Some may not even be some much a scam as a quick grab for members. In certain cases, Johnson said, companies may offer a free 14-day trial with a product, but not deliver until day 12 of the trial period. Again, Johnson said, simply reading the fine print can be the difference between headache and a good deal.

“If you did read the fine print, you would know exactly what you were getting yourself into,” Johnson said. “Read that fine print, ask those questions, don’t just jump into something without knowing, are you going to be charged? If you don’t like the product, how do you terminate that? Just look into it a little more, whether it’s a legitimate company or not.”

The same principles and practices apply when people are looking to grab a gym membership, Johnson said. While scams are not nearly as prevalent in established gym memberships, Johnson encouraged people to take advantage of the gyms’ free trial periods, while reading the fine print, of course.

“A lot of gyms do offer that, you know, you can go in, give them some of your information and saying that you are interested in trying and they will give you a free, you know, couple day pass some gyms give up to a week,” Johnson said. “Just try it first, go to the gym, go at different times or go with to the time you would work out and see if you like it…and don’t be afraid to shop around a little bit.”