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Free Trials Advertised Online Often Anything But Free

Leota Ball, 85, told NBC 5 Responds in Chicago she could kick herself for something she recently did in the name of smooth skin.

“I was on Facebook just scrolling,” she said. “And like a dummy, I clicked it. And I knew better.”

An ad for a risk-free trial of face cream, in 2016. Using an image she knew and trusted.

“It was Dr. Oz,” she said. There he was touting it and then, here it came.

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The cream for which the ad said she’d pay just $4.95 plus shipping.

But Ball’s credit card told a different story racking up multiple orders.

“I said, I didn’t order two,” she said. “They said ‘Oh yes, you did.'”

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This is precisely the kind of issue the Better Business Bureau says comes in daily from people like Leota Ball.

“Sometimes there can be nothing more expensive than a free trial offer,” Chicago Area Better Business Bureau CEO Steve Bernas said. “They hook them for expensive shipments of products they did not explicitly agree to buy and it can go on for months, and it can go on for years.”

They say the numbers tell the story.

“Complaints to the FTC about these scams more than doubled from 2015-2017 and they show no signs of slowing,” Jason Adler of the Federal Trade Commission said.

Companies that engage in probably “fake news,” launching videos on sets that look like a newscast and names that sound like a news operations, touting products that are not as advertised.

“Touting amazing weight loss results, magically wrinkle-free skin or bright sparkling teeth that inevitably lead to free trial offers schemes,” Adler said.

The BBB identified just under 37,000 complaints over the last three years.

The average loss to consumers is $186.

The majority of victims are women.

As for Leota Ball, her charges accounted for more than her fixed income brings in per month.

“I said you bank on it,” she said. “I’m going to report you!”

The company that sold the cream didn’t answer our questions. NBC 5 Responds in Chicago alerted Ball’s credit card company and they removed the charges from her card.

A spokesperson for Dr. Oz told us he had no affiliation with the face cream in question.

In general, the BBB says when it comes to celebrity endorsed products, if their lips aren’t moving, they’re not endorsing.

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