Beware of scams using ‘free samples’

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB

Jean (not her real name) followed up an advert for a free sample of skin cream. In fact, it cost 99p for postage and she had to give her debit card details to pay for it. Fourteen days later £89 was taken from her account.

Jean complained but was told she had agreed to a regular subscription when she submitted her details. She said that wasn’t made clear and cancelled the subscription. A month later another £89 was taken. She complained again but was told the same.

Jean was, of course, unwise to give all her bank details to a strange website for a payment of any size - especially for a ‘free’ product. But she can stop the payments by telling her bank she no longer authorises them. At that point the bank is legally obliged to stop making them.

If it does make any more, it must reimburse her in full - regardless of any contract she may or may not have entered into with the cosmetics supplier.

If the sale was a scam and Jean received nothing of value for her £89, she could also apply to the bank to reimburse the money she was tricked into paying earlier.

The process is called ‘chargeback’, run by Visa and MasterCard. If the bank proves difficult to deal with at any stage, she should appeal to the Financial Ombudsman Service

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Call Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau, Dunanney Centre, Rathcoole, 028 9085 2271 or email