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“Free” products weren’t really free

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The story: a company says its product will help you lose weight without diet changes or exercise, and you can try it free — 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

The reality: the company can’t support — or deliver on — those weight loss claims. If you give your credit or debit account number, you get charged $60 to $210 every month — and it’s almost impossible to get a refund. On top of that, you get enrolled in offers you didn’t ask for — with more monthly charges.

Add it all up, and you’ll understand the FTC’s case against Health Formulas, LLC and its network of companies. The companies advertised products from skin creams and “green coffee bean” weight loss supplements to virility and muscle-building products. Ads ran in print, online, on radio and TV.

 

According to the FTC, the companies used “buy-one-get-one-free” promotions or offered a free month’s supply for a small shipping and handling fee to persuade people to hand over their account information. Once they did, the FTC says, the company started charging them every month — not just for the original product, but for other products they hadn’t agreed to buy. Despite a “100% satisfaction guarantee,” people found the quest for a refund an exercise in frustration.

The FTC has information about “free trial” programs — and the hidden charges that might come with them. Before you try a new weight loss product, read Weighing the Claims in Diet Ads.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness
Scam Tags:  Free Trial Scams

Comments

Please DO NOT participate in the "free" trial. They will bill you for the total amount of the ORIGINAL product you were sent for shipping charges only. They will claim that you were "told" it was just a 14-day trial and you would have had to cancel before then to not be charged the remainder of their normal cost (I did not have any such information on anything I filled out or was sent). You will be placed on an autopay program which will automatically send out new bottles of the pills each month and you will continue to be billed the full cost. I called to complain and get a refund. They refused and would not put on a supervisor. I told them their program was a bait and switch and that they were thieves. I hung up and filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission since the "parent" company (Volcan Health or VL Health) is not registered with the BBB (surprise!) and I'm also trying to follow up with my Attorney General and the local Consumer Protection Agency.

I have been the victim of the same scam. You mentioned some things that you did as a follow-up. What process did you use, who did you talk to, and how did that go?

Same thing here... thought I would get a trial for my wife who is struggling with losing some weight and saw the "celebrity endorsements" so figured I would give it a shot. When I placed order my card notified me of possible fraud because there were 2 charges attempted - I only authorized 1 charge and a sample bottle arrived. I didn't see anything in offer about having to cancel within 15 days and today saw a charge of 89.98 which was 14 days after the first.

I called my credit card company, Chase Bank and they are refunding that charge and blocking that company from any further charges. I replied to the email confirmation indicating I reported fraud and someone replied they would cancel my subscription and no further charges would occur. He then went on to inform me of their terms and that by reporting fraud I was breaking the terms I agreed to.

I still only have the first (unopened as of yet) bottle so if anything else arrives I am returning everything and nothing more should happen. I should have known better than to try a "free" offer. I guess if they pursue anything I can look into whether those celebrities actually endorsed their products or if they lied about that. The bait-and-switch they are trying has to be illegal.

Please report this to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

The messages you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

I ordered some Forskolin extract and am not sure who through (Dr Oz ad) I received no product and have payments taken from bank, all that shows up on my statement is "healthsupplement pro" and I don't know how to track them down...

This FTC article tells what you can do if you were billed for something but never got it. It explains your rights when you shop by mail, phone or online.

Yes, this is happening all over US and UK, tens of thousands of people affected. They change the names of the products continually. Another face cream is Dermarez. Same container. Eye serum and anti wrinkle cream.

In the Terms and Conditions agreement it did state that after 14 days they would charge my credit card the full amount for both bottles (being around $190 for both). I made sure to read it because last time I got myself into a "free trial" offer the company started taking monthly payments from my card without me even knowing, so now I am careful to actually read what I am agreeing to. I ordered the Garcinia Cambogia and Pure Cleanse bottles 2 days ago, and I just called customer service to cancel any further payments charged to my credit card. The man I talked to was very persistent in trying to make me try the pills before I cancel with them and saying that he will keep my information (including card info) until I call again...something along those lines. I had to firmly say "NO. I do NOT want that. PLEASE remove me from any further payments", at least 3 or 4 times until he finally gave in. So make sure to call and cancel before 14 days since your first purchase are up, and to be VERY bold with customer service.

After checking my credit card balance I found 2 charges. One for 99.99 and the other for 95.99. I did order the Skinny Garcinia "free trial" but did not cancel within the 14 day time frame. This was not from lack of trying. I called the number from my cc statement and couldn't get through prior to the 14 day expiration date. Finally I get the bottle, do some online research and find a different number. First person I spoke to stated that I knew the terms & conditions but as a courtesy would refund 35% of my money and send me an online gift card to use which I had to use within an hour of getting it. I declined that right off stating that I would take my chances by disputing the charges. After several hours I decided to call again. This person started with the same scripted crap as the first person but offered my a 50% refund. After politely interrupting her I explained that I was not going to accept anything but a full refund to my credit card. If they choose not to refund it then I would dispute the charges then file a complaint with the FTC and BBB. She kept asking if I had disputed the charges yet. Can't dispute the charges while they are in a "pending" status but I assured her that I was going to as soon as they posted to my account then I would file the FTC complaint. After being put on hold she talks to her supervisor. Low and behold they are giving me a full refund. Couple tips....1)Get the name of the customer service rep and be nice to them. After all, they are just doing their job trying to make a living 2)get cancellation confirmation numbers for each item "subscribed" to 3)get refund confirmation numbers for your credits back to your cc.

I also noted the time I called. I guess I feel lucky that I'm getting the full refund but a little foolish I even did the "free trial". It's all a bait and switch scam.

Hope my post helps others.

I just called and canceled mine !! They took out 94.15 !!! I'm so glad I caught it when I did !! Like I have car payment and everything else

Just went through same thing. Garcinia burn.. They refused to give me back my almost 80.00 and I did cancel. What a scam..this is one old lady who lost money I could not afford to lose. I'm on social sercurity and they took my last doller out ofy bank .

Call them back tell them you're going to call the Better Business Bureau and the federal trade commission and the manager of your banking institution. it worked for me

I am so LIVID!! I checked my balance on my debit card and see a charge for this also, I called them up after googling and finding you nice people and read some comments and I they told me the same thing how I ordered the 4.95 free sample and pay just the shipping. the lady says because I did not cancel or return the unused portion they charged me 87.95! I told her I was going to be getting in touch with the FTC and file a complaint, she put me on hold and came back with a transaction number and said they will refund my money. How can these people get away with such deception? No where did it say on the website I would be charged no where! Grrrr I am still fuming!

Thank you for sharing this information. You can still report the company to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

I ordered a "free" 30 day trial. When I got the bottle it said 14 day supply. Nothing about 14 day free trial. On day 15, thinking I still had a couple of weeks to cancel, I called #'s given to me. I cancelled. Well, on that same day, they also charged my credit card. I could not get my money back after filing with my bank. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM!!!!

I ordered a free trial of a face team from Facebook, at $4.95 just to try the cream. Signed nothing , never sent or read anything that these people would actually scam me out of $200 on my credit card. They had the nerve to claim I had signed that I had read the disclosure.......wrong ! I read everything, and this was not disclosed. The company also said I signed up for monthly delivery of this smelly cream . NOT! They offered to refund me if I sent it back to them, but didn't use it because it had an unpleasant odor. Hoping my wonderful credit card company (Citibank) can deal with these thieves.......

I ordered it on Facebook two weeks later they charge my card 89.00 and 88.00 they said no refund you signed up for this. after a while they are giving back half if i didn't call back in so i disputed it with my bank for unauthorized charges, they also over drew my account so now 68.00 of that to deal with . DO NOT ORDER FROM THIS COMPANY ,SO WRONG

Thank you. I was wondering about that because every ite I have sen that says free trial is not actualy free. they always have an S/H chargeand any time there is a charge for any reason the ite is not free. Free means absolutely no charge for any reason.

if a trial doesnt say risk free or isnt asking for your debit or credit info it isnt free

I also experience this kind of situation recently, I ordered online for Garcinia Cambodia and after 15 days, I just notice in my CC that I was been charged twice for a product that I did not approve. I only purchase a free trial bottle for only $4.95, but the CC lady told me that I have received two different product which is the green coffee & garcinia... So I called up the toll no. that is attached to the email, I ask one of the representatives to give me a full refund for the two products but what she offer me is only a 35% refund, So since I really don't know what to do,, I decided to accept the offer instead of not getting any penny from them.. My advice to everyone is never trusted to free trial offer, who knows it might be a SCAM. Regards Karl

You can help law enforcement by reporting this to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

I just went through the exact same thing! First got charged $4.95 shipping each for 2 different cream (which I did sign up for), but nowhere on the ad did it say anything about canceling after 14 days! Two new charges of $95 each showed up after 2 weeks. I did some research on the web at that point and found this article, which was really helpful on how to deal with the situation.

I call the number that showed up on the credit card statement and got through after a few tries. The rep I talked to kept insisting that they are a trial product and I should have known they would charge me a monthly fee if not canceled within 14 days. I was really firm and insisted that they were charging me fraudulently and without my consent. I wanted a full refund and will be reporting them to the FTC if they don't agree to my demands.

The rep then put me on hold and transferred me to a supervisor. At this point, the supervisor first tried to give me a 30% life-time discount on future products, which I declined. Then she offered 65% refund... then 75% refund... then 100% refund but will charge me $9.99 restocking fee. At each point I firmly declined and insisted on a full refund with no fees. I told her that they were in the wrong for fraudulently charging my credit card without consent.

That they had not sent me any confirmation emails or communications, and there was no way for me to cancel even if I had known. I said on principle I refuse to pay any money for their wrong doing and I wanted all my money back! Finally she agreed to refund my money 100% and I wouldn't have to pay any restocking fee. I made sure that any future orders were canceled and got a confirmation number from her. So far one product has been refunded and I am still waiting for the other refund to post to my account. I then called my bank and notified them of the situation. The bank rep told me to call her back if the second refund does not post within a week, and they will take care of it then. I plan on canceling the card after the refund posts just to avoid any future charges... because with these scammers you just never know.

i am a victim of this, too :( this is so evil!! can someone please give me the company's toll number please??? i deleted their email already and i can't find their contact number anymore :( please help

Number if from an email I received from them. It does work as of today. Be belligerant if necessary. Do not let them hang up...they will try to cut off your call. Said NO more times in 40 minutes than I have in a year. Good luck. (844) 252-8201

Unfortunately, I got caught on this scam and am embarrassed as I know better. I realized something was off when I got an email confirming the green coffee but not the original product. I called them back and after 30 minutes of screaming at the 'agent', threatening legal action, demands for supervisor, and scathing social media....I finally got a cancellation number from them and the agent ID. Whether any of it is legit for the cancel, time will tell but I'll be watching my account like a hawk. The 'agent' was persistent but stick to our guns. Keep any emails, note times called and name of person speaking. How could I be so dumb! Duh. Good luck to us all.

I purchased the "free trial" for $4.95. I want to cancel my account and return the second bottle. The phone numbers I have called have no record of product or my account. How can they charge me if they cannot find my account?

I got snagged by this company also. I was also embarrassed, LP, by getting sucked in. I'm on the phone with them now - 800-637-1092, the distributor. Hawksburry Group, Inc. It was on the bottle.

I've been offered 35% discount for one month - now being connected to supervisor. I said I could not cancel because there was no information listed anywhere for customer service or cancellation. I had to research the internet to locate one, and finally called a number in small print at the bottom of an unopened bottle.

They said they can't accept returns, but I'm putting "Refused" on the bag and dropping them in the mail anyway. I was told it won't do any good to call the bank because they'll just dispute the charges and will lose (my words) - -- The saga continues. I was put on the phone with a man (Deondre H) who said I had called the wrong number, this was a skin care product. After back and forth debating, he accused me of calling him a liar (when he told me the agreement was for 30-day supply, with a 4 day processing and 10 day free trial period) I said, "You and I both know that's misleading". (In truth, it's fraudulent.)

He reminded me several times the call is being recorded and repeatedly told me I was accusing him of being a liar. I reminded him that I never used that word, nor implied it, and only he had said it. Long/short. I hung up, saying I'll call someone else. I will receive a refund for 2 bottles. I couldn't get far enough to discuss more. I have NEVER been treated more disrespectfully by any customer service representative anywhere. It feels like I may even have a legal case. In fact, considering all of us on this site, we might have a case for a class action suit. I think they try to make the customer angry on purpose. I know one thing - I'm copying what I'm writing you and forwarding it to the FTC and whomever else I can think of. My son is an attorney, and my bank will love to hear about this. The service reps are not allowed to give their last name, I'm told. I just wonder if he spelled his first name correctly.

One more thing: I was not given a cancellation confirmation number.

Follow-up: I received an e-mail today offering me a 75% discount on the previous merchandise. I told them I would consider it. After consideration, this is what I replied: "I would like a 100% refund, which covers both the product and my time and trouble. 75% is not sufficient.
By the way, I am sure you understand that 14 days is not sufficient time to try out a 30 day product and determine its effectiveness."

In a short time, I received a reply giving me a full 100% refund. I've already received confirmation of refunds of both products (Garcinia and Green Coffee). $89.00 for one, $88.00 for the other. I let it go that that doesn't include shipping, if any. According to my calculations, my bank should be credited $708.00 (can you believe it!) within 5-7 business days. I am watching this carefully.

I believe they responded because I CC'd both my attorney and bank. I'm sure a class action lawsuit will be filed, probably soon.

Please file a formal report with the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. You have a wealth of detail to provide. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

I am another victim of this so called "free" trial. I ended up paying $144.98CDN + $145.53CDN = $290.51CDN for a bottle of both the cam & coffee beans. Needless to say, I am one pissed off customer. When I called, they agreed to reduce $46.97USD big deal! I also called my bank to see if this could be voided. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do about it. They did inform me that they have seen a lot of these charges. Please spread the word and take every opportunity to inform future victims. That is about all we can do.

Go through your credit card company dispute center.

I, too, got the "free" trials of empire garcinia and green coffee bean pills. I was not aware that they had to be notified within 14 days of shipping for these products to be free. I am now in receipt of 2 credit card charges for $93.59 and $93.95 from fithlt and lovebty. I have disputed these charges with my credit card company. I also called the scammers to no avail. What an underhanded way to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Any suggestions if my bank fails to resolve this issue?

Same thing happened to me, the lady was so rude when I called. This is the number (888) 930-0942 I filed a claim for my bank said that I never authorized it and all that I'm hoping they fix it if they don't I'm just gonna callback to the place and give them hell

Another victim! My credit card company is dealing with them now. Advised me to notify company to pick up products at their expense and not send back at my expense. I'm hoping to get a full refund of the $268 CND. Called company twice but they are not cooperative so I'm going through credit card company dispute Center. This experience is upsetting but lesson learned. Nothing is free! Unfortunately the world is full of scam artists!

One day after contacting my credit card company I was refunded the full amount! Yahoo.

Dear lord, what a nightmare! Thanks to this article, I followed the advice of commenters & got back my 186$! I called the number on my amazing garcinia bottle, and mentioned fraud, attorney general, FTC & BBB. The rep immediately gave me refund confirmation numbers, etc. I was expecting a big fight, but there wasn't one! Thank you!

i have been charged a total of around 180 dollar...for things which i have not subscribed. and now tnbey are saying that they cannot refund the money. please help!!!

If you used your credit card, you could dispute the charges. This FTC article explains how to dispute credit card charges.

Tried "free sample" Alpha Fuel and started getting billed $80. My credit card co. denied the charge and I never authorized further charges.

Another victim right here! I had ordered "FREE Trial" of Garcinia Cambogia ($2.95 shipping) and Green Coffee ($3.95 shipping). I wasn't aware of the 14-day trial thing so after that period, I got charged $89 for the Garcinia Cambogia and $88 for the Green Coffee. I called the number on my bank statement (855) 393-3514 & (855) 686-1545. The first time I called those numbers, I had my subscription canceled. I asked for a refund and they said they weren't able to give me one. I called three times and every time, they hung up on me, SO RUDE. Thank god I found this page, thank you for those of you who shared your experience. I called the fourth time told them that if I didn't get my refund, I will be reporting this to the FTC. This time she put me on hold and came back saying they will be giving me a full refund. I will never order a free trial again. I learned my lesson. Thank you again for all who contributed to this page!

I just experienced the same thing yesterday! I had ordered "FREE Trial" of Garcinia Cambogia ($2.95 shipping) only. When I checked out the charge for the Green Coffee ($3.95 shipping) wasn't included. I didn't mind since I was under the impression it was a 'free' trial. My account was charged $92.97 for the Garcinia Cambogia and $92.99 for the Green Coffee AND I haven't even used the product. I called the number from my packaging (844) 965-6856. I kept going in circles with the rep on phone. He was just repeating the same lines to me. I asked to cancel and requested a full refund - he indicated he would cancel but could not refund full %. And then told me to call back again before December 29 to avoid charges again! I asked to speak with a Manager or escalate to a consumer relations department. He refused and said this was all that could be done at the time. I have since contacted my bank (Chase) and placed a dispute claim indicating their BAD business practices, along with locating this page and consumers that have experienced the same. They placed a temporary credit back to my account and decline the charges. I then called the (844) number back to confirm that my account was canceled and let them know what my action has been. I agree, I am never ordering a free trail again. I learned my lesson. I too appreciate everyone that has posted on this page!
This was the info on my packaging slip:
Dynamic Nutra
4231 Balboa Ave #105
San Diego, CA 92117
(844) 965-6856

I was scammed by of course NOT reading terms and conditions...which of course mentioned the $89.00 fee AFTER a 14 day $2.95 trial. I tried calling the number the bank gave me from my statement. Tried to cancel within 14 days and could not get through to ANYONE!! Multiple times. After almost giving up, I called the number on the actually bottle. Lady answered and declined being able to return any money, stating I should have read terms and conditions be for checking the box. I explained that I would have my bank look into the charges more. She then told me there was nothing my bank could do since I had to agreed to terms. After trying to get more info out of my otherwise quiet a agent at the other end. I repeated that I did not want the product. She told me that she would cancel my order that had ALREADY been shipped. I let her know that I wanted my money back since she was cancelling my order and that my bank had encouraged me to go to the BBB or FTC. She then asked me to hold. She came back and told me she could refund 30%. I was not happy with this and asked for full refund. Then she came back and said 50% refund. I asked to speak to a direct supervisor. At one point she told me I could return the product for the full amount and was ready to give me and address, when she asked if she could place me on hold. After a minute she came back and let me know that my subscription had been cancelled and that my full refund would return to my account in 5-7 business days. I was only on the phone for a total of 2 minutes!! Keep at it, and threaten to use the BBB and FTC. What they are doing is wrong.

P.S. Don't forget to ask for the conformation number after everything is said and done, just in case money doesn't come through!

I'm so glad I found this early on before any further damage to my account! I check my bank account often since I buy stuff from online and saw that $88.64 has been taken out of my account! I ordered the ResVibrant anti aging serum and HydraMatrixMD anti aging cream for a free trial. I paid around $3 for each item for SHIPPING. Of course I didn't read the terms and conditions because I'm lazy so I went ahead and ordered it. Around 2 weeks later, this happened. I went to call my bank account first (Chase) and got transferred to the customer claims and they told me to call the merchant and gave me their phone number (800-236-1571). I forgot to mention but I received these items but I never opened the packaging! I call the number and a man with a hard to understand accent answers thank god! He canceled my account and said he'd email me the address where I can ship back these products! And hopefully I'll get back my $88 dollars! I was so sad and depressed about this and I'm glad things will be okay for me. Just like most of you, this will be the LAST time I ever order anything online from a sketchy website! I

346 rue Aimé-Vincent
Vaudreuil-Dorion, QC
J7V 5V5
Canada------this is the address of these scammers, there company is called big dog payments.

I purchased a "free trial" of Garcinia Cambogia in November and just had $89.95 withdrawn from my account. They reused to give me a full refund stating it was listed in their terms and conditions. What a shady, disgusting company that preys on people! I have informed them to cancel my account but I feel that I will need to keep an eye on my statements! This fee put me into overdraft because it was not something I was expecting. They only refunded me $67 of the $89.95 that was charged, there has got to be something to do about this!
Also, their customer service support email does not list a company support@ customerservice123. com, how is this legal?!?!?!

i got scammed too by these low lifes, i called and spoke to a lady that cant speak english very well hell i dont know if im gettin a refund or not.....people like this make me sick to my stomach......there should be some kinda law to protect the consumer but guess there isnt.. any way CONSUMER BEWARE!!!! good luck every one that got scammed like me!

It is time that credit card companies be held responsible for this avoidable situation. They could stop these huge consumer losses so easily, yet they have not, and will not. They are ultimately arguably as shady as the scammed by turning a blind eye to this situation, and continuing to collect their fees on the scam. This is shameful and inexcusable.

Thank you everyone who has posted on this blog and the FTC lady and her link.
My woe began when I clicked on the Trial Offer for Enchanted Garcinia (merchant Choice Garcinia) for $5.95. No where on the web page was a link to terms of agreement stating a 14 day cancellation policy or that after the shipping charge of $5.95 you would be billed full price of 87.95, nor that you would be entering into an auto ship agreement. The company also sent a second product which I did not order called Enchanted Cleanse, billed separately by a company called Ivy Skin. Once I realized I had gotten a second package I attempted to call the company and was spoken to very rudely by the sales representative and I went to Capitol One to dispute the charges. The first representative there was helpful, I filed a complaint to unauthorized charges. I have now been sent a letter stating that the merchant won the dispute and I am now being recharged for product I did not order. When the first CO representative helped me in a three way call she was able to facilitate the cancellation of the recurring billing and shipping of the product and get a confirmation number for me. I got CO's decision letter in the mail dated December 23rd, and I opened it today Jan 1 (was in the hospital for the last two weeks). Called CO and did not get the same quality of assistance as the first time. Basically the representative told me to write a response to their decision, fill out the enclosed form and fax it or upload it and send it in an email attachment. I am unable to do a signed letter upload, so I came here for guidance. Plan on writing my response and will have a friend fax it as I am now housebound due to the surgery. I am livid that theses types of scams go on and will follow up with the FTC complaint. I also plan on closing my CO account and will just have to deal with paying off a debt for a product not wanted, nor ordered.

This company is a scam and are basically theives. They set up people by taking their credit numbers and then auto-enroll them. And they won't refund.

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