(CBS) — Who doesn’t like a free trial offer? The problem is, scammers know this as well and are taking consumers for millions of dollars a year.
CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports.
It was a wrinkle cream that promised to make you look 10 years younger. It was supposedly endorsed by lifestyle maven Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” TV show.
“I just thought that if Joanna [Gaines] was to put out a product it would be great,” Natalie Giangreco says at her Mount Prospect dog grooming salon.
Giangreco ordered two jars of Amabella skin cream, thinking she would only have to pay shipping for the samples. Her husband later saw additional charges on their credit card statement.
“He said, ‘We just got charged $180 from that skin product you ordered,’” Giangreco says.
Giangreco had unwittingly enrolled in a “continuity program” where she would be charged $89.92 a month per product.
“I’ve never been scammed like this and I feel like shame on them,” she says. “I work hard for my money and they have no right to do this to me or other consumers.”
Rodolfo Lagman thought he was getting a one-time free trial of teeth whitening gel.
“I was surprised because, other than what I was supposed to pay for, which was $5, I was being charged another $94.31,” Lagman says.
Lagman’s bank told him that by providing his credit card information he agreed to additional monthly charges.
Lagman insists he did not want additional products nor did he order them.
“I wrote them back and told them that it’s a lot of bull,” Lagman says.
Federal authorities say they get tens of thousands of complaints each year about “free trial” offers.
“Often times, there will be a disclosure below where you enter your credit card number, but consumers don’t pay attention to it because it’s in very fine print,” says Todd Kossow of the Federal Trade Commission.
Kossow says researching a company online before ordering can also reveal potential scams.
The FTC went after the company behind the teeth whitening offer in an attempt to shut them down.
“We don’t know how much money they’ve taken in over the life of the scam, but we think it’s between $30 million and $100 million,” Kossow says.
Natalie Giangreco eventually got her money back, but beware: There are many companies offering face cream free trials.
Rodolfo Lagman is still fighting with his bank to get charges reversed. Joanna Gaines has nothing to do with the wrinkle cream and has alerted her fans to not buy the cream.
Neither the sellers of the wrinkle cream nor the teeth whitener responded to CBS 2’s request for comment.