Consumers are being warned to be cautious of free-trials of online products

The Competition Bureau of Canada warns that many online free samples come at a hidden cost

Free trials may give you a week of streaming or a day at the gym but be wary when ordering sample products online.

Whether it’s hidden in the fine print or thrown in discreetly under your nose, ordering a free trial of a product could rope you into a monthly subscription without you even knowing.

With pyramid schemes and hidden costs behind free products, consumers are being warned to stay vigilant when deciding if a trial product is really for them. One basic rule applies in most cases — nothing is free.

However, no need to fear, the Competition Bureau of Canada says there are plenty of things you can do to defend your wallet.

First, be sure to think critically about the offer. Take time to evaluate what you are getting. Would you actually buy this product or do you only want it because it’s free?

Strongly consider whether it’s worth giving away your personal information like name, address and credit card number. Providing this information could possibly put you at risk.

Be sure to read through the fine print. While an advertisement might claim that you need only pay a small shipping and handling cost you could end up committed to a three-month subscription if you don’t cancel soon enough. Even if the trial is free, the offer may shoehorn extra products into your order at a significant cost to you.

Finally, if you do opt into ordering these products, remember to check your banking statements regularly for unauthorized transactions. If you see anything out of the ordinary be sure to report it to the Competition Bureau of Canada.