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Consumer Alert

Trial offers can pose trying tests after they expire

Q. In July, my wife and I wanted to check out our credit scores and saw an ad to get “free” credit scores from a company called ScoreSense. We put our credit card numbers in to pay $1 each and started getting charged between $19.95 and $29.95 a month each. We had no idea that we had signed up for any services from them. We didn’t realize what was happening ­until September and contacted the company in writing as they requested. They ended up giving us refunds for September and December, but not July, ­August, October, and November. Can you help us get our money back?

A. ScoreSense, and other similar companies, dangle the idea of a free credit score in order to sell memberships for services that typically include credit monitoring. But it’s not a free score. It’s a trial membership, one that if you don’t cancel will result in recurring charges.

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A lot of consumers have ended up unwittingly becoming members. Nearly 1,100 complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau against One Technologies LP, the company that runs ScoreSense, and the social credit monitoring site BillGuard.com is also littered with recent complaints about the surprise charges.

While the folks at One Technologies disagree with the idea that they misled you or used your credit card without permission, they have agreed to a full refund “as a customer service courtesy.” Kevin Hain, compliance and escalation specialist at ScoreSense, said members receive credit monitoring as well as monthly credit scores and reports for their fees.

The key in avoiding these situations is running when you see the words “free trial” unless you know you will cancel , or plan to subscribe.

Complaining to the BBB can help. A majority of those who complained about One Technologies told the BBB they consider their cases resolved. Best bet going forward: Only provide your credit card information when you are actually buying something.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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