Expensive “free trial” targets victims’ bank accounts

Watch out for "Whiteovernight," a company that sells teeth whitening products. Consumer Action has received many complaints about the Ontario, CA business. According to victims who have contacted Consumer Action, this outfit, also known as "LeanLookRX," "CheatandEatDiet," and "Nova Pointe," has made unauthorized withdrawals of $106.90 from bank accounts of individuals who requested a free sample of a teeth whitener over the Internet. If you are a victim, Consumer Action recommends that you take these steps: If the unauthorized charge was on a credit card, ask your credit card company for a chargeback. If your bank account was debited without your authorization, visit your bank and obtain a "Regulation E" form. This will allow you to exercise your rights under federal law to reverse the unauthorized withdrawal from your bank account. Be aware that you must file this form within 60 days of the date of the bank statement that listed the unauthorized withdrawal. Contact the California Attorney General at 916-322-3360 (in-state toll free number: 800-952-5225). The more victims who notify the Attorney General, the more likely the office will take legal action to stop the fraud. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357. (The complaint form is available in Spanish as well). You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau by phone or online. Claudia Guevara of Consumer Action’s Los Angeles office points out, "Many of these so-called 'free' online offers try to trick consumers into authorizing recurring automatic payments. If you are asked for credit card or bank information during a free trial offer, it's probably not free." "This is one of those situations where paying online with a credit card is much safer than using a debit card or an autodebit," adds Joe Ridout of Consumer Action’s San Francisco office. "You have more legal rights when it comes to credit card transactions, so it's easier to recover the money when you are overcharged or don’t get what you paid for." Consumer Action offers these tips on how consumers can protect themselves in the future: If your credit card company offers "one-time use" numbers, use one with a pre-set spending limit when you do business online with unfamiliar companies. This can reduce your exposure to fraud. Saving a screenshot of the terms and conditions or a copy of your cancellation notice can also protect you against online fraud. To perform a screen capture or screenshot, Mac users enter the command "Apple-Shift-3," and Windows users press the “Print scrn" key and paste into a program like MS Paint or Paint.net. Check discussion forums like Rate The Offers or Scam.com before signing up for online offers. This will give you an idea how other consumers have fared with online offers before you respond.

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