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Your Money: How not to get sucked in by free trial offers 

Pay attention to the fine print when you

Pay attention to the fine print when you sign up. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Ralf Geithe

You know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The same goes for a free trial. In a recent survey by Bankrate.com, 59 percent of those polled who signed up for a free trial were later charged against their will.

“Signing up for free trials or product samples online will typically activate auto-pay subscriptions using provided credit card information. Unfortunately, most companies write their subscription policies in fine print that is often overlooked by people. As a result, many customers are unaware that they will be charged for continued subscriptions following their free trials,” says Jacob Dylan, CEO and co-founder of FinancePal.com.

So how do you avoid paying for a product or service you’ve decided you don’t want?

Read the fine print

“Find out how much time you have to cancel (or if it’s a no-risk product trial, to return the product). Sometimes it’s only a week or two, which doesn’t give you much time to receive the product, try it, cancel the subscription, and return it,” says Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax & Consulting in Rockville Centre. “Know what you’re actually signing up for. Did you agree to an ongoing subscription with monthly billing?”

Act fast

Most companies send an invoice prior to shipping the product. If you reach out before the product is shipped, chances are they’ll honor your request and cancel your order, says Dylan.  While they aren’t required to refund your money if the product has already been shipped, it’s worth asking. There is a chance they’ll refund your money. Regardless, you will have to call them to cancel your subscription, so do it sooner than later.

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