Don't lose money to 'free' weight loss trials

January is the time of year when many of us think about losing some weight, getting into shape and detoxing.

However, Central Bedfordshire Council’s Trading Standards team is warning residents to be on their guard against free online trials of slimming pills and other health-related products such as anti-wrinkle cream, anti-aging cream, skin cleansing products and muscle gain or growth products.

That’s because the free trials often come with a hidden cost.

Consumers taking up the free trials often find themselves having to provide a credit or debit card and can end up having to pay for anything from packaging and postage to inadvertently agreeing to a rolling contract – also known as a subscription trap.

The terms and conditions, which are usually well hidden, tend to state that you have agreed to a monthly subscription of the product, with regular payments of anything up to £100 debited from the card details you have provided.

To lull consumers into a false sense of security, many of the sellers will quote UK addresses when in fact they are just mailing addresses with the sellers actually located overseas.

Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “These free trials often appear on social media sites or as pop-up adverts – as well as by email. People see the word free and don’t think about the consequences.

“However, you should be very wary about providing your card details for any free offer, and if you do then first read the small print thoroughly and check out what you are signing up for to make sure it is legitimate.

“As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.”

Anyone who notices any transactions they are not sure about should contact their bank or card provider at once. You can then ask them to stop any future payments, and if they won’t then insist you are withdrawing your consent to further payments and ask for a new card.

Anyone who suspects that an offer is a scam should report it by calling the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506.

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