Subscription traps

The scam

In this scam, fraudsters work to trick you into a monthly subscription for a product or service.


Jeanne is a biologist (and mom to three active kids).

She loves to hunt the elusive species known as "The Best. Deal. Ever", so she often signs up for free and low-cost products of all kinds.

Organic gluten-free pet treats… turbo-powered high intensity lawn food… "Pair-Of-Socks-A-Week" Club…

But when a deal for a miraculous face cream seems a little too smooth, Jeanne springs into action and uses her super keen senses to catch:

  • subscription traps that come with:
    • hefty charges on her credit card she didn't sign up for…
    • contracts that are difficult to cancel…
    • And inflated shipping charges.

Jeanne's rules for "free stuff success"?

Know the company you're about to deal with: read reviews and check their reputation!

Don't take reviews or celebrity endorsements at face value.

Review any contract—even a shipping order for free samples—with great care…

And check your credit card statements for charges you might not be aware of…

Avoiding subscription traps is a science you can master!

And if you suspect a scam or have gotten caught, always report it!

Video length: 1 minute, 21 seconds

How it works

The scammer offers “free” or “low-cost” trials of products and/or services. Products commonly offered are weight-loss pills, health foods, pharmaceuticals, hemp oil and anti-ageing products.

Once you provide your credit card information to cover “just” the shipping costs, you are unknowingly locked into a monthly subscription. Delivery and billing can then be difficult—if not almost impossible—to stop.

How to spot it

Scammers use websites, emails, social media platforms and phones to reel people in. Often, high-pressure sales tactics like a “limited time offer” are used to rush you into making a decision.

Protect yourself

  • Trust your instincts. If it’s too good to be true, don’t sign up.
  • Before you sign up for a free trial, research the company and read reviews, especially the negative ones. The Better Business Bureau is a great source of information.
  • Don’t sign up if you can’t find or understand the terms and conditions. Pay special attention to pre-checked boxes, cancellation clauses, return policies, any vague charges, and obligations to avoid being charged for the “free trial”.
  • If you go ahead with a free trial, keep all documents, receipts, emails, and text messages.
  • Regularly check your credit card statements for frequent or unknown charges.
  • If you have trouble cancelling your subscription, contact your credit card provider, your local consumer protection organization, or law enforcement agencies.

Further reading