For years now, scammers have been tricking consumers out of their money using “free trial” scams. Recently, consumers have been reporting a new twist on this scam on BBB.org/ScamTracker, one that involves offering consumers a variety of products at no charge.

How the Scam Works

You are scrolling through your social media feed when you see an ad with a great offer. A company is doing a limited time sale in which clothing, pet toys, or another product is available free of charge. All you have to do is pay the shipping costs. In some cases, the company offers one free product and in others they say you can fill your shopping cart with as many products as you like and still only pay shipping.

If that sounds too good to be true, well, it is. Consumers report paying around 10 to 15 dollars for shipping but no products are ever delivered. If you fall for this scam, you’ll lose the shipping money, you won’t get what you ordered, and you won’t be able to contact customer service.

Protect Yourself from Free Product Scams

Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Legitimate companies do run sales, but if a deal is so good it’s hard to believe, take a second look. A real business won’t be able to stay afloat if it gives products away at prices that are free or well below cost.

Research the company before you buy. If you haven’t heard of the company offering the sale, take a few minutes to look it up. Search for business ratings and customer reviews to find out if there is anything fishy about the business. A great place to start is bbb.org.

Make online purchases with your credit card. If anything goes awry with an online purchase, you can dispute charges with your credit card company. If you use other payment methods, there is usually no chance of recuperating lost funds.

For More Information

To learn about best practices when shopping online, read the article “BBB Tip: Smart Shopping Online.” Find out more about how to avoid scams in general by visiting BBB.org/AvoidScams.

If you’ve been the victim of an online purchase scam, report it on the BBB.org/ScamTracker to help others become aware of the danger.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB serving Central Indiana, which was founded in 1916 and serves 46 counties.

Information provided by BBB