Surprise, surprise! The FREE offer – for Skin Balance Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Cream – that I signed up for on Facebook is not FREE. It was more than NOT free. It cost me almost $400.
The doorbell rang. My parcel was here. Wow!!! I was going to be forever young now that my free samples of Skin Balance Anti-Aging Cream had arrived.
Was I ever surprised
I was actually surprised because the samples were full-size products.
I was also surprised when my credit card statement arrived a few weeks later, with four small charges from a website in Ireland. So I called my Credit Card Company (CCC) to question the unusual charges. While I checking my transactions, I also learned that I had additional unknown charges for $398. I was more than surprised!
When I finally reached a real person at the CCC, he was extremely helpful. He explained that the small charges were the postage for products that I had ordered on-line. “Ah yes, I remember now –postage for my FREE anti-wrinkle creams” I said with a sigh of relief.
“But where did the other $398 come from?” I queried. Fortunately I had placed this transaction on a rarely used credit card so it stood out.
“Those are from the same websites,” he explained.
“But why? I never ordered anything else” was my response.
The Credit Card company was very helpful
More surprises! The customer service representative at the fraud center then started asking me questions:
- CCC: Was there a Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) document presented as part of the transaction?
- ME: Yes, I believe so.
- CCC: Did you read the T&Cs?
- ME: I thought I did. At least I skimmed them.
- Q: Did you notice a clause that said if you did not cancel in 10 days that you would be billed (*monthly) for the products? (*I think he said that it might be monthly)
- ME: No, I do not remember seeing that in the Terms.
- CCC: Well this is the way they operate. When you click “I agree” to the T&Cs, you are signing a contract with them. You must call and cancel your contract within 10 days or they can charge your CC. And the ten days have passed so they have charged you almost $200 for each of your FREE samples.
- ME: Wow my wrinkles just became very expensive.
- CCC: I will give you the website URLs, the email addresses and the phone numbers for the two websites. You can call and ask them to reverse the charges. Since you are past the ten days, they can say “NO”. But it is best to try. I cannot help you further as it was a legal transaction once you clicked AGREE to their TERMS.
- ME: I will call immediately. Thank you for your help.
- CCC: Call us back when you have a resolution and a confirmation-number for the transaction. Then we will watch the account and request the refund – if it isn’t processed immediately.
Read everything very carefully before clicking “accept”
I had been naïve and even a little bit “stupid” when I saw the as pop-up on Facebook!!! I remember glancing over the T&Cs so quickly that I know that I missed the valuable information about the 10 days and additional charges. We are so used to seeing T&Cs on every website that we only give them a quick glance instead of reading all the terms. We think they only say that “we won’t do anything for you, and we are not liable for anything, and you use this product at your own risk.” Unless we’ve been scammed before, we don’t expect them to also say that we just signed our credit card information over to them so they could continue to charge us exorbitant amounts for “free samples”.
I got right on the case and was stubborn
Well. I don’t give up easily. I called the number that I was given. I was told by the call center that they would cancel my “membership” but that they could NOT refund my money. I told them I was happy to return the FREE sample, which remained unopened. They said they could NOT accept returns. I whined and told them that it was “unfair” because I had NOT understood the terms. They finally agreed to refund 50%. They gave me the required status confirmation number which I promptly reported to the Credit Card Company to initiate my claim for my money back.
But, I definitely don’t give up easily. So I called back. I complained that they were running a SCAM, catching innocent users with unreasonable terms and outrageous fees hidden in the contract. After a lot of more whining about unfair business practices (because they didn’t mail me n invoice or the T&Cs with my product), the representative agreed to try to get me a full refund. And I obtained the second status confirmation number which I also reported back to the Credit Card Company. A few weeks later my CC statement had a FULL refund.
Moral of the story: Fight back!
My advice: Never accept any FREE offers on the Internet. Nothing is ever FREE.
However, if this should ever happen to you, take these steps:
- Contact your Credit Card Company immediately.
- Ask for their advice on how to handle it.
- Follow their instructions very carefully.
- While on the phone, cancel the credit card to ensure no future funds can be taken.
- Contact the seller organization – preferably by phone. If phone isn’t possible, then communicate by email explaining what action you desire to resolve the issue. Your Credit Card Company should be able to give you the contact details for the seller. (The CCC is sending the money to the seller – so they will definitely have some sort of Contact information, even if they say they don’t.)
- The Credit Card Company will require some sort of proof that you have contacted the seller. So, make sure that you get a status confirmation number from them, and if possible the name of the representative. Also ask for that information – and how they are resolving the issue (e.g. return, partial refund, full refund, cancellation of contract, etc.) – to be sent to you in writing, by email or mail. That way you have “proof” of their promise, just in case it does not happen.
- Follow-up with your Credit Card Company and let them know how it will be resolved. Also,ask for your phone call to be noted in their records.
The most important thing to remember is that although you have made a “mistake” – agreeing to T&Cs that you didn’t understand (and that you do not have a COPY of) – there is still a possibility of getting a satisfactory outcome. Perhaps if enough of us take action and complain about scams like this, it will become unprofitable for them to continue. Remember they stay in operation because they make money preying off the “innocent”.
The purpose of this blog is to help inform unsuspecting on-line shoppers and make us all less naïve. This was my first time falling for this type of scam. However, it will be the last time that I will ever fall for a “FREE SAMPLE” offer.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION on the SKIN CARE CREAM SCAM
For more information about these scams, you might want to watch this excellent video of investigative reporting done by CBC Marketplace: Free Trial Scams: Don’t click that link!
Be forewarned it is not a pleasant story, especially if you have been scammed. There are apparently hundreds of these companies taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers like myself and the women who have shared their stories in the comments below…
The best way for us to STOP them – is as CBC says – “Don’t click that link!” – after all nothing is ever really FREE, especially on the internet. I know that I learned my lesson and will NEVER do it again.
- First of all Karma Kreatives has nothing to do with the skin cream companies in these blogs. I was SCAMMED too – just like YOU were.
- And as an on-line seller, I want everyone to know that there are many ways that you can fight the battle if you are not satisfied with an internet purchase. The first is to contact the seller and ask for resolution.Another way is to contact your CCC and ask them for their help in resolving the problem. And don’t forget to cancel your credit card in the process, and get a new one.
Here at Karma Kreatives, we hope that your on-line shopping experience will always be a highly satisfactory one.
You can read more about this scams on this blog: Advanced Skin Anti-Wrinkle Serum – Free Trial is Not Free