Protecting our customers from free trial scams

Protecting our customers from free trial scams

Terry Lawson, RBS Head of Fraud, reveals why you should always read the small print.

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Terry Lawson
Head of Fraud and Chargeback Operations

16 February 2015

Terry Lawson, RBS Head of Fraud, spoke out about free trial scams on BBC Breakfast last week.

These days we are continually being asked to agree to terms and conditions. Most people (myself included) do this automatically without reading them properly and understanding exactly what we’re agreeing to.

In May we noticed that we were getting a lot of calls from customers about unauthorised payments on their accounts. Further investigation showed that these customers had agreed to a ‘free trial’ of what we call neutraceuticals – these are things like slimming pills, muscle builders, teeth whiteners and anti-wrinkle creams. A lot of neutraceutical companies are legitimate but we’ve found too many instances of our customers thinking they’re only paying for postage and packaging to then get caught in a recurring monthly payment – the details of which are hidden away in the terms and conditions.

We’ve also found that the terms and conditions are hidden away at the bottom of the website so they’re harder to find. We’ve even found instances where you have to agree to the terms and conditions before you can view them.

We don’t think this is right so last week we spoke out about it. I spoke on Sky News, BBC Breakfast and a number of radio shows throughout the week to raise awareness of these ‘free’ trials and the importance of reading the small print.

Over 37,000 of our customers have been caught out by this scam so we’ve raised the issue with Visa, MasterCard and Cards UK and have provided them with the details of merchants causing regular complaints. This has resulted in a significant number of these merchants being shut down. 

My advice is to always read the terms and conditions, and if you can’t find them never give out your card details. Be sure what you’re agreeing to and make sure you’re not next.

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