ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler

Don't fall for this online scam advertising a "free trial" of skincare products

Beware of “free" skincare trial scams which trick people into signing up for costly subscriptions.

How does the scam work?

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler explains that the many skincare companies place ads on third-party websites for the so-called free offers and direct consumers to their websites.

Consumers are asked to provide their credit or debit card information to pay relatively small shipping fees of or less to receive the trial offer.

Those who provide their credit card details soon discover that they've been charged much more - around R2600 - under terms hidden in the fine print on the websites.

Knowler says this is an international scam, controlled by a company with a footprint in the US and UK, which has multiple fronts peddling multiple products.

Read also: 5 types of internet scams South Africans need to wary of

When people agree to a free product, such as eye cream or moisturiser, they have their credit cards charged without authorisation.

The US Federal Trade Commission says internet marketers trick consumers into signing up for free trial schemes.

Bilqees Essa and Hahniem Mohamed both fell victim to this scam through a product range called Tryjouvence.

When I contacted the company, this woman said to me that I had gone into a subscription and that there was no way that I was going to get my money back. She said I accepted the T&Cs.

Bilqees Essa, victim of skincare scam

I had not wanted to order the actual products, all I wanted was the samples. I wanted my money back because this was false advertising.

Bilqees Essa, victim of skincare scam

Wendy Knowle shares 5 lessons learnt from this scam:

  • Be extremely wary of pop-up adverts on news sites, Facebook and the like.
  • If you’re going to buy online from foreign sites, stick to the big-name sites and make sure you know which costs are included in the quoted price and which are not, such as shipping and customs and VAT.
  • Beware the free offers - they are almost always a catch.
  • Before you commit your credit card details to any website, make very sure you have read every bit of small print behind every link on it.
  • If you can, do transactions on a desktop or laptop computer rather than a smartphone, as links to T&Cs display better on the bigger screens.

This hijacking of celebrity ambassadors to fake endorsements is a common modus operandi of these companies.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

The key issue for me is disclosure of what the deal really is; it's a subscription.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

I do think the banks should be interrogating this a bit more.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

Listen to the entire ConsumerTalk discussion during The Pippa Hudson Show:

Image: jouvencecream.net

Every Wednesday, on The Pippa Hudson Show, Wendy Knowler provides useful insights and tips on how to make the most of your buying power.

For more stories visit the ConsumerTalk feature page.

Got a consumer case you need help resolving?

Email: consumer@knowler.co.za, put Cape Talk in the subject line, followed by the issue e.g. cellphone contract dispute.


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