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Online Trials Claiming to Be Free Are Often Anything But, Better Business Bureau Warns

The BBB identified just under 37,000 complaints over the last three years.

Leota Ball, 85, told NBC 5 she could kick herself for something she recently did in the name of smooth skin.

“I was on Facebook just scrolling," she said. "And like a dummy, I clicked it. And I knew better."

An ad for a risk-free trial of face cream, in 2016. Using an image she knew and trusted.

“It was Dr. Oz,” she said.

There he was touting it-- and then, here it came.

The cream for which the ad said she'd pay just $4.95 plus shipping.

But Leota's credit card told a different story- racking up multiple orders.

"I said, I didn’t order two," she said. "They said 'oh yes you did.'" 

This is precisely the kind of question the Better Business Bureau says comes in daily from victims like Leota.

"Sometimes there can be nothing more expensive than a free trial offer," the BBB's CEO Steve Bernas said. "They hook them for expensive shipments of products they did not explicitly agree to buy and it can go on for months, and it can go on for years."

They say the numbers tell the story.

"Complaints to the ftc about these scams more than doubled from 2015-2017 and they show no signs of slowing," Jason Adler of the FTC said.

Companies that engage in provably "fake news"-- launching videos on sets that look like a newscast and names that sound like a news operation— to tout products that are not, they say, as advertised.

"Touting amazing weight loss results, magically wrinkle free skin or bright sparkling teeth that inevitably lead to free trial offers schemes," Adler said.

The BBB identified just under 37,000 complaints over the last three years.

The average loss to consumers: $186.

The majority of victims are women.

Back in Batavia, the charges in Leota's case accounted for more than her monthly allowance.

"I said you bank on it," she said. "I’m going to report you!"

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