How to avoid being sucked into ongoing charges on internet purchases


A common thread thread ran through the reader comments to my post about the acai berry weight-loss scam was that many people have fallen prey to similar pitches, failing to realize they were signing up for ongoing monthly charges. How can you avoid this trap? Learn to recognize sites that play this game.

I classify such unethical online merchants in three classes, based on just how deeply they bury the dirty details.

1. The least dastardly of these merchants are those such as the John Beck Real Estate System that allow you to read the terms of the agreement before entering any personal information. This site doesn't offer a 'free trial', another point in its favor, although it does offer a full refund within 30 days, if you can find out how to request one. The site has been often criticized for unethical practices, which might account for some of its faint transparency.

On the screen that appears after clicking on the Order Now button, the warning, "You will be billed $39.95 per month for your membership after the 1st month" appears below the product features listing, in mouse print. The full terms and conditions of the program, however, are buried at the bottom of the page.

2. Worse than this type of pitch is one by companies such as Bromalite, which lure customers with the promise of a 14-day free trial contingent on signing up for an ongoing monthly shipment and charge. The Bromalite site buries the terms and conditions of the offer at the bottom of the home page, so that a careful customer may avoid divulging any personal information before accessing the program details. After reading the program details, however, I question why anyone would sign up for the "free trial." Check out some of the terms:

"By clicking on 'Send My Bottle', you expressly agree to the terms and agreement, contained herein. By clicking on "Rush My Order", you also expressly agree and accept the terms and billings unconditionally as a binding contract enforceable by law."
"Should customer fail to cancel its subscription, its Subscription with Bromalite will become active and customer will be billed $69.95 on the 15th day after its trial begins for the trial product sent. You will be be billed again in 30 days from today for the same amount to replenish your supply and every 30 days thereafter until cancelled."

3. The real bottom feeders of internet commerce are those sites that offer a "Free" trial but require that you fill out your information before even allowing you to read the terms of the agreement. People, your personal information has value, and it's foolish to give it up to a sleazy merchants such as these. A good example of this type of site is Ultimate Colon Cleanse. When you see a welcome screen like this, retreat as fast as you can, lest your wallet end up sucked as clean and empty as your colon.

Remember this simple rule and you'll dramatically reduce your risk of being scammed; Free stuff rarely is -- and doubly so on the internet.