Did you know that some of the advertisements you may see on popular social networking sites might be a scam?

While sites such as Facebook have advertising policies and guidelines that prohibit deceptive, false or misleading content, it can be difficult to monitor, and sometimes advertisements offering Free Product Trials can be especially enticing. In many cases this targeted advertising is a useful way for a merchant to get their product into the marketplace, but as with all online purchasing – buyer beware!

Over the last 12 months we have seen many members disputing transactions on their bcu Visa card for recurring amounts for as much as $250 a month for products associated with a “Free Trial”. Often these transactions are associated with health and beauty products and offer an initial Free Trial for the cost of postage and handling, and monthly charges thereafter. While the Terms and Conditions will outline the cancellation period, these can easily be missed in the fine print. Frustratingly, it can also be hard to register your cancellation if the advertised contact number is not answered or you don’t get a reply to your email.

We certainly don’t want to tell you how to spend your hard earned cash, but below are some tips and tricks for avoiding getting caught up in the Free Trial / Subscription merry-go-round.

  • Research – if the ad is using the image of a known identity, check with other internet searches to see if there are other reputable endorsements of that product by the same personality. If the ad is a scam there will almost certainly be a report of it online somewhere.
  • Scepticism – if the product or claim sounds too good to be true, unfortunately it probably is!
  • Reflection – find out what the ongoing cost of the product will be, in the event that you do like the merchandise and wish to continuing purchasing it. Are you happy to pay $131 for a beauty product every 6 weeks?
  • Cancellation - if you’ve signed up to the trial, received the goods and simply decide you want out, follow the instructions for cancelling the ongoing orders. If you have to call the product hotline, keep a record of the date and time you called or attempted to call. If you send an email, clearly state that you want to cancel and do not authorise any ongoing charges, keep a copy of the email for your records. If you receive further goods, send them back and keep details of the postage.

And if all the above fails and you find you are still getting unwanted charges on your Visa card, drop in to one of the bcu branches or contact our Call Centre on 1300 228 228 for some advice and assistance.

Picture of Emma Lawson who is bcu’s Manager on Fraud.

Author bio: 

Emma Lawson is bcu’s Manager on Fraud. With an extensive knowledge of online banking security, Emma is full of practical tips to help everyday Australian’s stay safer online.

Important information

Banking and Credit products issued by Police & Nurses Limited (BCU) ABN 69 087 651 876 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 240701. Any advice does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Read the relevant Product Terms and Condition, before acquiring this product in considering and deciding whether it is right for you. The Target Market Determination (TMD) for products is available on request. Lending criteria, terms & conditions, fees & charges apply.