The Free 7-Day Subscription Bait
The phone rings. An online company representative is calling to offer me a free 7-day subscription to a credit score and computer fraud prevention service. All that the representative needs to know is my credit card number to cover a $1 processing fee. The red blinking light goes off in front of my eyes as a siren screams in my head. This has to be a scam.
More clever and devious minds than mine have figured out how to rig this game. The only thing I thought I knew was how to stop it before it starts. I did not give my credit card number. In spite of this, a charge showed up on one of my credit cards for $1. So I called the credit card company to report this mistake. They reversed the charge. But the next thing I knew, I was receiving a bill for $29.94/month as my regular subscription fee. How did this happen? I did not authorize it. In fact, my credit card company contacted me because they suspected fraud. My credit card was canceled and a card with a new number was sent to me.
Deja Vu All Over Again
But it happened again with the newly issued card. How did they get my card number? I was baffled and wanted a more proactive solution. So this time, the representative from the credit card issuer said that I needed to call the company directly to cancel my subscription. That was just what I did. Then I called back the credit card folks to report my action. At this point, I was told that I had done everything I needed to. Therefore I had no liability for this entire fiasco.
The Free 7-Day Subscription Is A Scam
There is a term used in poker called a ‘tell’. It is something that gives away a bluffer’s hand. The tell in this, as well as most internet scams, is the request for a credit card number. ‘Oh,’ they say, ‘it is just to cover a processing fee’. The next thing you know a substantial charge shows up on your card and it is a regular monthly subscription. Talk about adding insult to injury.
So my response to their ‘tell’ is to NOT provide a credit card number for a $1 processing fee for a 7-day trial subscription of their services. Remember, once a company has your card number, they can go to town. Then you have to find a way to stop them in their tracks in order to avoid any additional charges to this free trial. The story may not be over. The scammers may give their scheme another try. But if they do both my credit card company and I will be ready to stop them in their tracks.
Even after I was assured by phone and email of the cancellation of my $29.94/month subscription fee, something still bothered me. So I called the merchant back. This is what I learned. I suggest you pay close attention. First of all, even if I report fraud to my credit card company resulting in my getting a new credit card, the merchant can charge that new credit card number for the subscription. So the only way to stop it is to call the merchant itself to cancel.
In addition, after a barrage of questions by me to the customer service person, I was still not satisfied by his responses that I was the person who signed up for their 7-day free trial subscription which resulted in their $29.94/mo fee. The bottom line is that I am zero dollars out of pocket. But I was sufficiently inconvenienced. In addition, I have less trust in online security and more concern about how easy it is to be taken by less than scrupulous companies and individuals.
SOURCES & RESOURCES
“Free” Trial Offers
FTC: Consumer Information
BBB: “Free trial” shopping scams are on the rise
Buyer beware: Is that free trial really free?