Online auto subscriptions are double-edged swords. A quintessential as they are for e-commerce, they can be turned into tools to scam you out of your hard-earned money.
Since information is the key to protect yourself, take a look at everything you need to know about this brand-new type of scam.
What are automatic subscriptions?
As the name indicates, they allow continuous payment by directly discharging from the preferred payment method after previous authorization from the user.
It allows the client to enjoy uninterrupted service without reintroducing the payment information each time.
What is the difference between a regular auto subscription and a scam?
The most prominent trait of an auto-subscription scam is the lack of clear and upfront information.
Consumers subscribing for one term are not explicitly told the cancellation methods or that the service will automatically renew the subscription each time.
Often, they lure you in with free trials.
Legitimate companies will offer a free trial and often won’t ask for payment information or provide multiple warnings once the trial period approaches its end.
In contrast, scamming services will charge automatically right after the free trial comes to an end without the client explicitly agreeing to move onto the paid service.
Most of the time, they rely on forgetfulness.
Since auto-subscriptions are so common nowadays, many scamming companies rely on the client forgetting to cancel the service on time—particularly when it comes to free trials.
They will purposefully avoid informing the client of any upcoming changes so that the payment can come unassumingly.
Be aware of "Negative Options."
The Better Business Bureau describes the "negative options" as a hidden clause where the scammers affirm they need explicit notification from the client, notifying them they do not wish to renew the services. Otherwise, they’ll proceed with charging.
In other words, they assume a lack of complaint as consent.
Auto-subscription scams are near-impossible to cancel.
Once clients have caught on, scammers make it impossible for them to opt-out.
They commonly rely on imposing bureaucratic obstacles to perform the cancellation - unanswered emails, demanding an on-site visit when the subscription was conducted online, amongst others.
Scammers are not afraid to use scare tactics.
If bureaucratic obstacles do not work, many scammers are not afraid to intimidate the clients.
For example, they may threaten you with performing actions to damage your credit score or involve the courts for further actions.
Always read the fine print.
Many of these scams rely on hidden annotations and comments within their terms and conditions, often using deceptive language.
The best way to avoid falling for these tricks is to take your time reading the fine print.
Know your rights.
According to your country and state, there may be laws protecting you against auto-subscription scams.
For example, California implemented in 2010 a code that requires explicit consent from the consumer before each automatic subscription. Make sure to research the laws that apply to you.
If you fall victim to one of these scams, do not be afraid to act. Call your bank and ask for assistance in solving this issue, place a fraud alert, or even issue a new card.