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‘My free trial was not free,’ says Burnaby Facebook scam victim

Local resident said he should have checked the terms more closely
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Jessie likes to be on Facebook, but he is now having second thoughts after losing out on hundreds of dollars after falling for a “free trial” he saw while on Facebook.

The Burnaby resident decided to try some nutritional supplements after seeing an ad because, heck, it’s free to start, right?

“After I signed up I suddenly got invoiced saying I had legally agreed to paying for a few monthly shipments,” Jessie said. “I couldn’t get out of it. I should have read the fine print.”

Before you sign up for these “limited time offers” the Better Business Bureau told the NOW to research the company online, see if there are any other consumer complaints, read the terms and conditions you are agreeing to carefully, and if you can’t find any terms and conditions, that is a red flag.

“Watch out for pre-checked boxes and make sure that you know who and where the company is that you are purchasing from,” the BBB said.

The BBB also supplied some other social media scams to avoid.

Products That Claim to Support Charity: As you scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed, you see an ad from a small business selling adorable jewelry, t-shirts, or other merchandise. The best part? Some of the proceeds from the sale will go to a charity that helps rescue animals, foster children, or support another worthy cause. Some consumers even report getting direct messages from sellers promoting the products and asking them to spread the word to friends and family. 

You make your purchase. But when your merchandise never gets delivered, the doubts start to build. When you contact the company about your purchase, they are suddenly unreachable or reply with an autoresponder. In reality, the product never existed. It was all a ploy to get your money.

Counterfeit Merchandise: Name brand goods are prime targets for unauthorized duplication, from sporting goods to designer apparel and handbags. If you purchase any of these products you may run the risk of not only receiving a poor quality product, but it may not meet environmental and safety regulations either. 

Look out for red flags. This includes items that are priced significantly lower than what other retailers are charging, spelling and grammatical errors in the advertisements, and poor quality images. These are all signs that the advertisement may be for a counterfeit product.

Engaging Ads, Poor Customer Service: This category covers a broad spectrum of complaints that BBB receives, from ads for beauty products to trendy clothing to kids' toys. The advertisements look great and the products are often inexpensive. This means that consumers purchase without doing any research into the website or the company behind it. However, weeks pass and the products never arrive. When the buyers reach out to customer service, they get a vague answer or they don't hear back at all. 

Before buying, do a quick online search. Google the website name with the words “complaints,” “reviews,” and “scam” to see what other customers are saying. Check the “About Us” or “Contact Us” information on the company’s website to see if they contain actual contact details for the business. If the only way to contact the company is through a form, this is a red flag.  

Apps of Unknown Origin: While scrolling through your feed you may feel compelled to download the latest “free” app. Beware! By downloading this app, not only are you opening up your device to these unknown entities, you could possibly be signing up for recurring subscription fees. Victims report being charged fees over $100 every seven days.

Before you enter your username and password, read the reviews. Also, read the description of the app carefully and look for spelling and grammatical errors. Check that the developer’s website is a working website and read the terms and conditions carefully ($100 every 7 days adds up quickly).

How to Protect Yourself from Social Media Scams

  • Do your research. Before making a purchase, do a quick search for the business in question. Do they have valid contact information? Don’t be fooled by professional photography or consumer reviews on their website. These can be lifted from other sites. Check BBB Scam Tracker to see if others have been duped.
  • Search for previous complaints. Do a Google search of the business name followed by “complaints,” “reviews,” or “scam” and see what pops up. If you find other people have been cheated by this business, steer clear.

Use good judgment. Many con artists play on consumers’ desire to help those in need. Keep this in mind and use your head, not just your heart, when supporting charitable causes. Research organizations before giving.