Free-trial scams cost RBS customers £30k a day

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Free trial scams have duped RBS customers out of £2.9 million, or £30,000 each day, since last June.

At its worst point, RBS was fielding more than 390 calls a day from customers worried about unrecognised charges on their account – many of which were for around £80 a month.

The bank estimates that since last June, scams have cost customers more than £30,000 each day.

Online scams such as those offering miracle weight loss cures or muscle gain are catching out thousands of consumers by promising a free trial, only to carry on taking funds from the customer’s account each month as they don’t realise they are signing up for a recurring subscription.

Often the terms and conditions that set out the monthly payments are hidden at the bottom of webpages and in some cases are actually only accessible after the customer has signed up.

In effort to protect its customers, RBS has now raised the issue of such scams with Visa, MasterCard and Cards UK and provided them with details about firms that are causing regular complaints.

This has led to more than 1,000 companies having their acquirer relationship terminated since last week, leaving them unable to process payments.

Raise awareness

 Terry Lawson, head of fraud at RBS, said: "Too many of our customers have fallen victim to these scams. We want to help raise awareness so that both our customers, and the wider public, are aware of these scams and look out for unclear or confusing terms and conditions. If any of our customers think they have accidentally entered into an agreement we’d urge them to contact us so we can help cancel any future payments."

If you think you have been a victim, contact your bank immediately. It will be able to cancel all future payments to the scam firm.

Tips for dealing with free trial scams

1. Make sure you fully read the terms and conditions of what you are signing up to. If you can't see them or there aren't any, don't give the company your bank details.
2. If you think you have been scammed, try to contact the business and explain you weren't told about the monthly repayments. This might prove fruitless but your bank will expect you to have tried.
3. Speak to your bank. If you tell it to put a stop on a continuous payment authority, it must do so. Don't be deterred by incorrect information given out by a cashier.
4. If your bank doesn't resolve the issue, then speak to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It will remind the bank of its responsibilities regarding CPAs and help put a stop to further payments.

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Your Comments

Amazon Prime is a classic that should be investigated.

Some are undoubtedly scams that deserve to be stamped out, and it's good to see that RBS is taking positive action in this area, but I think consumers need to become less naive i.e. if you sign up for a free trial then you have to expect payback at some point. Too many people seem to want something for nothing, in my view, and then moan when they are caught out by their own greed.
Companies will not be able to take money out of bank accounts, or charge to credit/debit cards, unless the customer has willingly provided this information. And why on earth would someone provide this information if they were unwilling for a charge to be incurred, especially if the future payment amounts were unclear, the cancellation method was not stated, or even if they are just prone to being forgetful...
One potential solution would be for free trials to be totally obligation free and customers would only be asked for payment details once the trial was complete i.e. they would have to deliberately commit to future payments if they wanted to retain the subscription/service etc. But I think the downside of this is that companies would be less willing to offer free trials and we, as consumers, would be worse off as a result i.e we'd have to commit to a year's subscription, say, if we wanted to find out whether the product offered was suitable.
The simple solution is to ask youself "Does the offer seem too good to be true?" - if it does, then don't sign up for the offer. If the offer seems reasonable, and has clear T&Cs, including details of future payments and how to cancel the agreement, then by all means sign up for it if it would be of use to you - but do add a date to your diary for a few days before the free trial runs out so that you have time to cancel the agreement before any payments are taken. Simple...
N.B. not sure that it's fair that Amazon Prime is singled out as a scam - I think the terms of the free trial are pretty clear and they do make it very easy to terminate Prime membership (it's a simple option on their website).Ironically, the Consumers' Association Which? free trial is actually harder to cancel (you have to find the right email address or phone number), but Which? do promptly cancel payment instructions when asked; however, the process is not as simple as I would have expected from the consumers' champion.

I have been scammed earlier in the week on a Free Trial from companies Brivon and Vitahar relating to hair products and the company handling their finances is called Bluesnap.  The Terms and Conditions were so small in the bottom corner it was hard to find them.  It was my bank, Santander,  who rang straightaway to inform be of "unusual activity" for transactions from Malta and Cyprus!  I cancelled the products immediately but was told it was to late to cancel - half an hour after placing the order.  As far as I was concerned I was ordering a Free Trial but immediately was signed up to £95 per month for each product plus postage!!  All this without my consent.  
I have emailed Trading Standards and also MoneySavingExpert to make them aware of this scam.
I have had a lot of inconvenience and have now cancelled my present credit card.  The companies have now after numerous emails offered me a refund of £2.99 each for the products which have arrived this morning and are now telling me to return them with some form or another which I have to apply for and there will be a cost to me. They can sit gathering dust until someone wishes to come to me to collect them after all time, trouble and inconvenience this has caused me.  
Be very aware to search out the Terms and Conditions on Free Trials.  

just make cpa's illegal or is someone making money out of it near the top of the food chain, I wonder