RIP-OFF ALERT: Try our product for free…no obligation! That should be a scary phrase for consumers all over the country. I think about how many calls I get from people who have signed on for a free trial offer, and then there are suddenly mysterious bogus charges for hundreds of dollars on their credit card or debited from their checking account.

We're all familiar with the pitch for free trial offers. They typically come through infomercials on TV or on the Internet by spam e-mail or advertisement.

Know this: If you are offered a free trial and you have to give a credit card number, a debit card number or your checking account number, you are asking for trouble.

Sometimes these come-ons are just sleazy. Other times, they're downright criminal. The Federal Trade Commission is now after a Canadian who allegedly stole nearly $500,000,000 through free trial offers. People were scammed out of money in America, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand in that particular case.

Again, remember this simple rule: Free trial offers are not free if you have to divulge your credit card number, debit card number or checking account number. That's the tipoff that it's not going to be free.

Editor's note: This segment originally aired June 2011.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. View More Articles

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