“Free trial” scammers settle, surrender millions

In 2010, the FTC sued Jeremy Johnson, his company IWorks, and nine others for allegedly taking more than $280 million from people with a deceptive “free trial” scheme. Now Johnson, his family members, and more than two dozen corporate defendants have settled FTC charges and will give up millions of dollars in cash, stock, jewelry, aircraft, real estate and other assets. In a separate criminal case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, Johnson was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after a federal jury in Utah convicted him of making false statements to a bank in connection with the IWorks scheme.

IWorks’ websites promoted government grants and money-making products, and offered "free" information at no risk. But, according to the FTC, when people gave their credit or debit card numbers to pay a supposedly small shipping and handling fee for the information, IWorks charged them one time fees as high as $129.95, and recurring monthly fees, all without their knowledge or permission. In February 2011, a court froze the assets of Johnson and dozens of other defendants so the money could ultimately go back to consumers. Three remaining defendants go to trial in October 2016. After all proceedings are complete, the FTC hopes to issue refunds to people who lost money in the IWorks scheme.

If you’re looking for government grants or ways to make money, the FTC has tips to help you avoid getting ripped off. If you signed up for a free — or low cost — trial, and were charged more than you agreed to, please report it to the FTC.


Tagged with: free trial, scam
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


This is a great video and very informative.Thank you

Thank you! It's great to see these scammers brought to justice.

Watch out for LaBelle Fleur face cream of any type. You wil end up losing money AND paying for 1 jar of cream, as much as $80 or more!

agreed! I fell for the same thing, had to pay and return the face cream! Hello! you cant reuse it? So much for free!

Also DermEssence and NuBeauty! Charged $95 for EACH, and then again 2 weeks later, before I had checked my statement. They offered to give me 50% back but that still leaves me nearly $200 out and I am not happy.

If you signed up for a free — or low cost — trial, and were charged more than you agreed to, please report it to the FTC.

I already filed a complaint against Skin Technologies, also known as Beauty Now, SOI Beauty, L'Amour skin products. They are predatory and misleading in their offers and order process. I never agreed to a subscription, there were no terms to check off when I ordered. I said NO to the offer of eye serum, and it was added anyway. Now I'm facing $457 in credit card charges for something to which I never agreed.
I'd like to file a class action suit against this company and get my money back. How can I find out who owns this business? I can't find this information anywhere at all.

I also have been scammed by this misleading "free" trial for L'amour skin cream. After giving my cc# for shipping and handling, I received a small tub of the L'amour skin cream product in the mail. No problems until my credit card statement had a charge of $89.79 to Beauty Skin (888) 539-5862. I called to question what this charge was and loans behold it was for my "free trial" of skin cream. And I was told that I was signed up for an auto-ship/auto-payment to receive an additional product each month. I asked them to cancel this subscription and they said they would. At that point, I'd paid roughly $95 for a tiny tub of skin cream. To my surprise, the following month's credit card statement had yet another $89.79 bill paid to Beauty Skin. I called again and they told me that they would cancel my subscription and that there had been several bottles of skin cream sent to me. None of which have I yet to receive. At that point I called my credit card company and cancelled the card, realizing that there were no packages coming and Beauty Skin was going to keep charging me for nothing. These people are crooks, no doubt in my mind and I'd love to see them called to task for scamming people.

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


i also had this happen and I think they just change the nam. i callled the several time and email to refund my 89.95$. and they said were putting my $ back...

It's about time the government got it right for a change with this administration that's been in for nearly 8 years this guy thinks he's a king not a president and he certainly does not work for the people of America he only does what he feels is best for the democrats

Good work by FTC and Justice Dept.! I never received alerts like these from any previous administration and I doubt Winston did either.

Sir, Do please read the individual voting records of each member of Congress. It is THOSE members who are responsible for passing bills for the President to sign or reject. There is also the CRUCIAL need for everyone of us to read AND UNDERSTAND each of the bills in its entirety before
making judgments. Thank you.
passed AND rejected

This is not the subject I want to address, but good work brining these people together.

While in this site awhile back there was a link to a supposedly safe place to get spam emails to stop hitting and jamming my email box. I signed up, got fewer for a week or so then not only did they start back up they have tripled in size. What's the deal. We need to be able to trust this site t least, and believe me when I say I trust few people, online sites and more.

LISTEN! A free trial means FREE,within the use of card numbers.

Thanx for informative video:)

The first fact I learned in Econ. I : there is NO such thing as a free lunch ~!

Thank God..... My mom, God rest her soul lost all her savings , credit and almost her house. They prey on the elderly.

were they involve also in lottery awards as well ?

good job keep up the good work go get them,,,, Now go after Dish Network

I ordered a two for one curler set..... then they charged my account for $79.00. the original 2 for 1 total was $19.95...never informed me that if the second set wasn't returned I would be billed for $79.00.... company would not do anything so I called BBB the Atty General & credit card company .. that took care of it....charges reversed!!!

Great Job: I am Certified in Financial Forensics and it great to have the federal government help protect consumers.

I have been Scammed but I haven't received away of suing anyone to retrieve my looses. How can I retrieve my looses ?

This FTC page has articles about how to resolve consumer problems.

This is the best Federal Government Agency, bar none. Thank you for actually being there for US.

Thank you, know I hope all of these other people who constantly call every day gets the hint that they better take it somewhere else other than the Good Old United States of America!!!!

Our government works! Thanks for the article.

Congratulations FTC. My daughter worked for the CRTC and I know how long it takes before you can achieve results. It has nothing to do with the President in power, it has to do with the perseverance of the people working for the FTC. Thanks. PA

whoever sells them 'airtime' (radio, tv) or links (from internet sites) should also be held accountable and have to pay back 'customers' who were cheated -they are virtual accomplice - and should verify what 'products/services'they allow to be advertised --till then beware everything !

I see faces prison for scam of BANK. Why didn't you go after him for scams of ordinary consumers?

Who's "reviewing" my comment and why? Censorship? Why do you find it necessary to review? To protect your agency from scrutiny? Are you just another joke fed agency? Pick up your checks and "review" them!

I initially asked myself the same thing, then I thought about it for a minute. I am sure they review so no profanity is used. I also think they review to make sure the post isn't off-topic or just plain nonsense. I believe it has more to do with keeping the site civil than censorship. I, personally, have read many negative comments directed towards the agency posted on this site.

In the beginning, I had a couple of my posts censored (not posted). The objectionable material was me mentioning a particular brand name of something I used. Exact brand names and company names are only allowed when they are associated with scams for the most part.

Criticism of the FTC posts are allowed; I see them quite frequently. I think the FTC just doesn't want any possibility of a company putting a plug for their product in here.

This is a moderated blog. We review comments before we post them. The Comment Policy appears directly next to the link that says "Leave a Comment." Click on the Comment Policy link to read the details of the Policy.

is fresh start credit solutions a scam?

These scammers are not only in USA but they operate big time in NEW ZEALAND and target the elderly people badly and the NEW ZEALANDand AUSTRALIAN BANKS trading in NEW ZEALAND have stole of $600 millin dollars from me but now i am being tageted again harder than any thing else in my life as the storage place in CHRISTCHURCH NEW ZEALAND are goingto sell out every thing thing that i own in my life over their big high charges so even though i have $198 million dollars worth of antiques andstorage in my life since i was about 15 yrs old right through till 65 yrs old well NEW ZEALAND VAN LINES CHRISTCHURCH NEW ZEALAND are selling every thing of my life for the sake of i couldnt get earthquake insurace money to pay the account of $24,000

Tmike, it would be virtually impossible for any of the entities you mention to do a thorough check on all of their clients. I agree that this is a travesty but folks just need to be educated and informed.

great job go get more

I am so glade to hear they are getting these scammers, but I wish they would also look at Craigslist, they have a scammer pretending to be T.V. repair man, he sets an appointment with you comes out works on the T.V. by taking it apart and removing a board or something worth more telling you he has one at his shop and will say he wants to make sure he gets the correct one and will be back in 1 hr and put it back together, then he don't come back leaving your 1,500.00 T.V.apart and broken. When you call him back it is excuse after excuse, this man took me for money and broke my T.V. and being an elderly lady I trusted him, I found I was not the only one he did this to, he makes his money by getting your trust and knowing you know nothing about T.V's or computers he does them to and GOD only knows how much he is making scamming and stealing from these people.I did learn before you let someone work or take some money or parts of a TV or computer make sure you check the recipe to make sure there is not only his signature but an address all I had on mine was a name what he took from my TV and he would return an advise, and I did not check that till 2 weeks after because of his sad excuse to me I believed him who would make up such stories. I do believe that Craigslist should be held responsible also especially when they are notified by the people scammed and give them their email address name and telephone the AD I.D. and the the license number they say they have and because he is also saying he is a Representative of Dish and Direct Company

Such a horrible ordeal for future reference if you need repairs I would consider calling professional businesses such as BBB, 211 and/or getting references from them as to who you can contact in order to get what you're looking for. Craigslist, Rent-a-Centers and other used or high priced businesses pose threats to ordinary shoppers or people who want what they pay for; nothing more nothing less.

How about letting us know who these fraudsters are so we an get more of them charged???

even though you report a crime as such-
doe not mean you will get anything back.
what you lost is as usual... in the criminals pockets. if its free!why pay shipping charges.
companies use theirs as tax write offs.

So true, Tmike. Very well put .
Good job ,FTC. Fair job, DOJ.
Hope that DOJ will make sure that he doesn't buy his way into a Country Club "prison" . And family members . More than two dozen corporate defendants .Why is this guy the only one going to jail ?
THREE remaining defendants ??
Maybe one year per million dollars would be something closer to just .

These 'info commercials' are just as crooked...they try to sell you stuff that you really do not want...the shipping charge is usually more than the product itself. BEWARE of those info-commercials,especially when they advertise 2 for the price of one...HAH!

These crooks are getting more & more determined. It's astounding to see KARMA come for them for targeting hard working people trying to better themselves. They're also haning out "free cellphones" in inner cities all you have to do is hand them your EBT or Medicaid number?!

I receive calls all day from numbers I do not kmow.Someone needs to find out how people just call calling to be the government stating you owe taxes.Or your computer is filled with a virus call this 800 for repair,this takes over your screen until you cut it off,it tells you not to cut your computer off and to be careful doing banking.how do these people get your telephone number in the beginning is someone selling the information.


I fell victim to "FREE TRIAL OFFER" by the Whitening Coach.
I gave them my visa card for what I thought was a charge of $3.87 for the shipping charges of the sample. I clicked on the agree button thinking that I was agreeing to paying the shipping charges for the sample. I received the sample and the charge for the shipping appeared on that month's statement. I was not impressed with the sample product so I did not respond to them thinking that the transaction was closed.
I did not receive anything else. However, in the following month's credit card statement there were three charges from them amounting to $291.63. When I called them they said that by clicking "agree," I agreed to enter their program and that the charges are not reimbursable. However, they agreed to forgive $100 which I refused hoping that CITI VISA would deny the charges since I had not authorized those three payments. Unfortunately, VISA was not of any help.
Clearly these people are running a scam.

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

Don't be fooled by Natural Ceramides Youth Cream. You will be billed excessive amounts on a monthly basis with no way to contact them to stop sending their products.

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

Beware of a product Luminis Advanced Skincare. Sent for a sample for which I paid $5.95 for S&H. Fourteen days later my credit card account is slammed for a charge of $98.71 because, by accepting the sample and declining enrollment in the program within 14 days I was automatically enrolled. The credit card billing name was JET*FIVAFACESERUM. Beware!!

This is useful information for a complaint. 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.

Here's a crazy new idea for solving unwanted and undisclosed charges on credit cards, for "free trials". Create an option on credit cards that means: the company can only make one and ONLY ONE charge to this credit card. If the consumer then decides they wants the whole product, they use a different card.

OK, I'll admit this may sound like fantasy land, but with all the other magic we can do electronically; why not?

I just got scammed with those free samples. over drawn. took 85 and 97 and 98 dollars out this month. I'm 71 and only receive SS. The bank would not do anything the companies would not give back my money even though I did not open the product and returned it. is there anyway to get my money back?

I fell for the same scam, but it didn't stop with the face cream, which they finally agreed I could keep for $36. Then there was the added on eye cream, which they charged me for and said I only cancelled the face cream and not the eye cream subscription. To add insult to injury, they started charging my credit card $4.95 per month. For the first two months, I didn't notice it, but on the third month, 10 days after the charge was placed, I noticed and called them. That was a charge for the Internet portal to their beauty website or something like that. They said I didn't cancel that piece of the subscription. It is hard to believe that people are this dishonest just trying to rip others off.

I was scammed by the beauty products also but when I saw charges on my credit card for $89.00, all I had to do was dispute the charge and my credit card refused the charge.

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