Keep “free trials” free… the easy way.
In this week’s Tech Tip we share the easy way to sign up for free trails and avoid being charged if you forget to cancel.
Everyone loves free samples, they give us the opportunity to try something first and decide if it’s worth our hard-earned money later. It’s a concept as old as commerce itself. Then along came the digital age, and online companies soon realized they’d have to follow suit. Ads laden with “Try it free” and “Download for free” buttons had us clicking like mad. Advertisers were able to get their product in front consumers faster than ever before. It didn’t take long for online businesses (and scam artists) to realize they were missing a huge opportunity to make money from something “free”.
By requiring credit card info to sign up for the “free trial”, companies not only benefited from consumers forgetfulness… they banked on it. Eventually these tactics got more advanced, with shady online sellers offering items at ridiculous prices to entice you into providing your card details. Once they had your account information, the only item you’d actually receive was a notice from our bank that your account was now empty.
This isn’t to say that all online retailers are dubious, most aren’t. In fact, it’s in their best interest to live up to their product claims. This keeps you as a paying customer month after month, and hopefully you’ll tell others. Unfortunately this doesn’t negate the fact that there are scammers everywhere online. And honestly, it can be hard to decipher an actual deal or service you may enjoy, from a financially dubious scam.
It goes without saying that you should never provide your financial details to anyone you feel may have less than honest intentions. As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re like many, you may think you’re protected by your bank for such scams. Unfortunately, more and more find out each day that a “free trial” isn’t free at all. That’s because when you sign up for the free trial you’re agreeing to allow the company to continually charge your account (indefinitely in most cases). This usually means your bank can cease any future charges, but what has been charged often cannot be refunded because it’s technically not an “unauthorized charge”.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to give anything you want a try, without the fear of having your account wiped out. Pre-paid credit/debit cards.
Available just about anywhere nowadays, they’re easy to pre-load with funds and are often given as gifts. They’re also the easiest way to sign up for free trials without having to worry if you forget to cancel within the time allowed. Of course, if you do decide to keep the service after your trial period expires, it’s simple to update your payment to a “standard method”. And trust us… they’ll send you numerous emails reminding you to do so! Some banking institutions have even recognized the benefits of “disposable” cards, and now issue “virtual card” numbers to their clients. These are one-time use credit/debit card numbers that offer an added level of security for online purchases. Check with your bank to see if they offer this service.
And that’s all there is to it! Hopefully using this tip will not only save you the time and energy it takes to “undo” a charge you forgot about, but also protect you from becoming a victim of identity fraud.
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