The sales industry is fascinating. When it’s done well, you receive great value and both parties leave the transaction feeling happy. But the tactics some merchants use are downright manipulative and often veer into illegal territory.
For example, you might see an infomercial on TV for vitamins. The ad targets the elderly and promises something that sounds like the fountain of youth. The commercial reminds viewers of how tired they are and how old they have become. You watch a sleazy sales show video of people running on the beach, flying a kite, drinking wine and dancing the jitterbug. And you can be just like them if you take this pill just three times a day!
The beauty of this special offer is that if you call in the next 10 minutes, you get not just one bottle of vitamins but also will get a second one for free—as long as you pay the shipping charges. But that’s not all! You also get this handy travel clock that displays the time on the ceiling! All with an amazing money-back guarantee.
I think you see where this is going.
But what they don’t explicitly bring to your attention is that once you make this purchase, you aren’t just buying one bottle and getting one bottle for free; you are actually signing up to buy three bottles a month and you’re going to be activated for a monthly membership to a wellness website. In total, your card will be charged $79.99 per month.
This can happen when you make purchases over the phone or online. In the process of checking out during an online transaction, you might check or need to uncheck a box in regard to an offer or discount. Either way, a few months later you start getting charged for services you never wanted or ordered.
Here’s how to not get sucked into unwanted subscriptions:
- Know right now that there is no free lunch. Everything costs more than it appears.
- You will not be happy taking a pill. Except for that time I went to Woodstock in the late‘80s…never mind.
- Always reconcile your bills diligently and on a timely basis.
- Refute unwanted subscriptions immediately—within one to two billing cycles.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards offer more consumer protection.
- Ask lots of questions and read the fine print.
- Do an online search for the name of the company/product,along with the word “scam,” and see what shows up.
- Use BillGuard to watch your back and help you resolve unwanted charges.
Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.