Online free trial offers aren't what they seem

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Another consumer learns the hard way that online free trial offers turn expensive when consumers fail to take action; something marketers are hoping for.

The action is canceling during the trial period. When you don't cancel in time, that triggers big, unexpected charges to your card. Many consumers don't even know they need to cancel and that's exactly how most free trials are designed.

"There was a little pop-up on the side that said 50+ women 'never wear makeup again'," Vivian Nierenberg said.

It was a free trial Vivian Nierenberg found online. All she had to do was pay $5 in shipping to try Parisian Glow facial cream. But not long after, Nierenberg says she found another charge for $89.95. At first, she thought it was fraud.

"I didn't think about it being something else that I was being charged for," Nierenberg said.

But she was being charged, for that same product that was supposed to be free. It says so in the terms and conditions. If you don't cancel at the expiration of the trial period -15 days- you pay the full price, plus commit to the same every month thereafter.

"I don't recall it, so it would have been so little, that I did not see it. And I never saw anything regarding any price," Nierenberg said.

Nearly all free trials come with similar, hard-to-find terms. Nierenberg was charged for a second month before she could cancel her subscription.

"They won't take the product back and they won't refund the money. I'm out the $200," Nierenberg said.

But she's learned the first lesson about online free trial offers.

"If it's free, don't do it, it probably isn't," Nierenberg said.

I advise every consumer to stay away from free trial offers.

But if you can't help yourself, read the terms and conditions carefully before giving your credit card information and put an alert on your phone reminding you when the free trial ends and you need to cancel.

CBS 5 News reached out to Parisian Glow several times for comment but no one from the company responded. 

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