10 Ways To Avoid Free Trial Scams

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These tips can help you spot red flags that might reveal scams.
Updated April 9, 2024
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Scammers are getting better at duping people out of their hard-earned money, so it’s important to be on your guard. One increasingly common way that fraudsters deceive their victims is through free trials.

Sometimes, the culprits are full-fledged crooks. In other cases, they are legitimate companies with sneaky marketing practices that can prove costly to you.

Here are the steps you can take to protect your financial fitness and avoid free trial scams.

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Search for the company name and the word ‘scam’

fenskey/Adobe google search bar

Those who have been scammed often try to warn others of the offending company’s antics. So, run an internet search for the name of the company you are signing up with and add the word “scam.”

A quick check on Reddit or a look at the company’s Google reviews should also give you a sense of the company’s reputation.

Make sure a real company is offering the free trial

panuwat/Adobe man receiving fake text messages

Legitimate businesses usually have a physical address, phone number, and other indicators that they are a real business selling real products.

If you can’t find this basic information after a few minutes of internet research, give the free trial a pass.

Beware of outsized promises or urgent time frames

Elnur/Adobe employee in industrial espionage

You’ve heard these marketing gimmicks before: “Act now before we sell out!” Or, “Lose 30 pounds in one month!”

If the advertisements play on your emotions, this should raise a red flag that a possible scam is afoot.

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Be wary of offers through social media

Aleksei/Adobe social media apps on iphone

Hackers get into social media accounts every day. These crooks can take advantage of your trusted relationships by pretending to be a friend or acquaintance so they can con you.

If a “friend” uses social media to alert you about a new free trial offer, proceed with caution.

Look for information about how to cancel the free trial

Debalina/Adobe 30 days free trial period

Before you sign up for a free trial, make sure you understand when and how to cancel.

Most companies offering legitimate free trials will give you this information. So, be wary of any company that doesn’t make its cancellation method obvious.

Set an alarm on your phone the day before the trial ends

sigitas1975/Adobe setting an alarm clock

Plenty of subscription services count on you forgetting to cancel before the free trial ends. While this isn’t technically a scam, it does increase the risk of you losing money you never intended to spend.

Make sure that this doesn’t happen to you. Set a reminder a day or two before your free trial ends so you remember to cancel it.

Check your bank and credit card statements

littlepigpower/Adobe checking credit card bill information

Keeping close tabs on bank and credit card accounts is good practice for your finances in general, but it is especially important to do this if you are worried about scams.

Keeping a close tab on your accounts can help you detect suspicious charges.

Guard your personal info

THAWEERAT/Adobe two-factor-authentication-digital-screen

If you plan to participate in free trials, consider using a junk email address or a prepaid credit card when signing up.

Doing so shields you from the worst damage that thieves can inflict.

Contest the charge with your credit card company

Novak/Adobe using-credit-card-and-tablet

If you fall victim to a free trial scam, dispute the charge with your credit card company. In many cases, the company will investigate the situation and reverse the charges.

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Report scams to the FTC

Kannapat/Adobe using smartphone with warning sign

Finally, if you are the victim of a scam, do your best to prevent others from suffering the same fate.

Alert the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about any deceptive or unfair marketing practices. You can report scams at the ReportFraud.ftc.gov web page.

Bottom line

Teodor Lazarev/Adobe lured into an online scam

Offering a free trial is a common and legitimate marketing practice for companies from Netflix to Apple and Amazon. That said, sneaky marketing tactics and straight-up theft can occur if you’re not careful.

Whenever you sign up for a free trial of anything, do your research to make sure you know what you are getting into. Also, make sure you know how to terminate the free trial so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises.

Being alert is the best way to keep more money in your bank account instead of putting it into the pockets of scammers.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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