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Free CBD oil? It might be a scam to bill hundreds on your credit card

The Better Business Bureau is warning of a trend that ropes unwitting consumers into costly monthly subscriptions for CBD.
CBD oil in a bottle with dropper Friday, May 7, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
CBD oil in a bottle with dropper Friday, May 7, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published May 7
Updated May 7

To someone curious about CBD oil, the offer might sound intriguing.

The ads on social media or in online searches say you can get a free trial sample of CBD, which is found in hemp and marijuana. (CBD doesn’t get people high, but proponents say it can make you feel better.) You just pay a few bucks for shipping and handling.

Careful, consumer advocates warn. It could be the latest scam that’s already netted some victims large and unexpected charges on their credit cards.

“Told me of a free product trial. Just need to pay for shipping of $10,” one victim recently wrote to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker, where consumers can report and research scams. “The company has been withdrawing money from my account” — for a total of $200, the report said.

“They don’t tell you how now every month they will collect $70 from your credit card,” wrote another.

“Shadiest company I’ve seen in a LONG time!” wrote another.

Here’s how it works: Ads — some featuring celebrities — offer the free sample and ask for your credit card for that nominal shipping fee. Then victims find themselves charged for an ongoing monthly subscription they never knew about — often a recurring $80 to $100.

Some consumers also said it was difficult to cancel the subscription. The company made excuses and the charges kept coming, they said.

Advice from the experts: Read the fine print before you sign up for anything. If you don’t see terms and conditions, that’s “a huge red flag,” the Better Business Bureau says. Don’t be lured by endorsements by celebrities, which can be fake. Research companies that aren’t familiar and watch your credit card for unauthorized charges.

Consumer advocates say scammers are adept at adjusting their game to the latest trends, from puppies people desperately wanted to purchase during the pandemic to vaccine scams.

With consumers hunkered down during the coronavirus crisis, online scams went up 40 percent in 2020, and a similar surge is expected for 2021, according to Scamadviser.com.