If you have the feeling at the end of every month that there’s less money in your account than there should be you’re not alone. People all over America fall victim to deceptive or unwarranted charges every day, especially since fewer than 10% of us check every transaction that we make. If you’re not willing to be a victim to companies that play it loose with ethics read on to find out how to identify and avoid deceptive charges that you may be getting and make sure that your money stays where it belongs; in your bank account.
First and foremost, beware of free trials, especially if you found them online. The fact is, as soon as you make an order for something using a free trial offer the clock starts ticking on the free trial period. If you don’t know this and get the product 2 weeks later your free trial may already be nearly over and, if it does end before you cancel, you may be stuck paying big bucks for a product that you don’t want or need. This happens more often than you think and some companies make millions off of the practice every year, counting on people to forget or lose track of time. That’s pretty darn sneaky so be careful to avoid it.
Secondly, beware of subscriptions that you have no idea you are signing up for. Here’s the thing; when you’re online you’re always checking boxes right? Check this if you want that, check here to say you agree, etc. Well, some sneaky websites are putting checks in the boxes before you check them, telling them that yes, you want a subscription to XYZ magazine or whatever. You miss that checked box and the next thing you know XYZ magazine arrives in your mail and you’re like ‘what?’ and the website is like ‘yeah, the box was checked’. (Probably using that very same vocabulary too.) So before you finalize any transaction online make sure that the only boxes that are checked are the boxes that need or that you want to be checked to make the transaction you desire and not 1 box more. (Who knew little boxes could be so devious?)
Something that’s beginning to occur more frequently is called ‘negative option marketing’ and it’s a doozy. For example, let’s say you ordered a new body spray and, when it arrives, another bath product is also included. This extra product is not free and, if you don’t return it they will charge you for it. Sometimes they’ll charge to send it monthly too. The company counts on you not knowing this fact and ‘consenting by default’ to purchase it, a little trick that you need to obviously avoid. Calling them and taking care of it as well as never using their service again and possibly reporting them to the BBB are all great ideas.
Three other little tricks that you need to be aware of are;
- Auto renewals on subscriptions, memberships and other services that bill you monthly or quarterly. If you don’t cancel it will keep getting renewed until you do.
- Subscriptions that you cancelled becoming active again. (They’re called zombie subscriptions because they came back from the dead.)
- Fees that get higher slightly every month. This ‘cost creep’ is hard to notice because it’s so small but, with time, could add up.
We hope that this was enlightening and that, in the future, you’ll be more prepared to deal with some of the, shall we say, morally challenged companies that you find out there. Knowing they’re out there is half the battle, making sure they don’t take advantage of you is the skill. Cheers!