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The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released a statement warning consumers to watch out for dodgy companies who are using free CBD as bait to lure unwary shoppers into a scam. 

In recent months, the BBB Scam Tracker website has received dozens of complaints from people who have been hit with expensive monthly charges after signing up to receive free CBD. These scammers hook their victims with online ads that offer free samples of CBD oil to anyone who is willing to pay a few dollars for shipping and handling. 

In order to pay for this supposed shipping fee, consumers must enter their credit card information, which sets them up for the next stage of the scam. A few weeks after the initial shipping charge is filed, these shady websites begin charging customers a monthly subscription charge ranging from $80 to $100 a month. And to rub even more salt into the wound, most victims said they never even received their free CBD sample. 

“You don’t find out until 3 weeks later that you have signed up for a subscription and you are charged $99,” an anonymous victim told Scam Tracker. “They will not refund your money. They say you had 14 days to cancel (when you call them to complain) but there is no description of that on the website.”

In order to cancel this unwanted subscription, consumers are forced to call the scammers, who use a variety of excuses to avoid offering refunds. Some scam victims were told that they missed their opportunity to cancel, while others were told that the cancellation process couldn’t be completed due to a computer problem. In other cases, victims were told that their subscription was successfully cancelled, but the company went on charging them anyway.

Many of these scam websites also use fake celebrity endorsements to advertise their wares, a tactic that is actually becoming fairly common in the CBD industry. Shady companies have been caught using fake endorsements from Tom Hanks, Dr. Oz, and David Attenborough, and Clint Eastwood recently sued 20 CBD companies for using his likeness and fake quotes to promote their products. In some of the new BBB reports, victims said the companies claimed their products were endorsed by popular ministers Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen. 

The BBB offers a number of tips for avoiding free trial scams. The agency advises consumers to thoroughly research any company that claims to offer free products. There are dozens of online websites dedicated to outing scam companies, including the BBB’s own website, so a simple Google search can often identify whether or not a company is legit. Consumers are also cautioned to actually read the full list of terms and conditions before they hand over their money.

People who have already fallen prey to one of these scams are advised to take the matter up with their credit card company or payment processor. Banks and credit card companies can stop scammers from charging unwanted monthly fees, and many offer fraud protection programs that will refund money lost to scams.