Oregon State Treasury


Things are offered to you for "Free"!

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There aren't very many things you can actually get for free.  A free sample at the supermarket might only cost you your time and attention... but some "free" offers can cost you money.  Be especially careful if someone makes you give our your credit card number when getting something for "free."  You may be charged a subscription fee if you don't cancel service within a certain time period.

Always read the fine print and watch out for the following phrases:

"FREE HOME INSPECTION" - Be cautious if somebody calls or knocks on your door and offers a free inspection to see if you need house work -- such as gutters repaired, painting or a new roof. Many times they will ask for a small down payment or a credit card number and then disappear. And never let them inside.

“TRY BEFORE YOU BUY” – Free trial offers are often known as “Negative Option” purchases, in which you must cancel a product before the end of a trial period. Sometimes, merchants make it tough for consumers to take the necessary action, with the hope of trapping you into expensive purchases.

FREE SEMINAR – Sometimes, legitimate businesses try to attract new clients by offering a free seminar or a lunch, such as at a church or at a hotel conference room. But be careful. These kinds of free seminars also are used to attract unsuspecting victims for scams. An Oregon cattle breeder that sold phony tax shelters used free hotel seminars to attract clients in the 1980s and 1990s, and many of those victims ended up bankrupt.

FREE VACATION – Remember, it’s not really “free” if you must agree to attend tours of real estate or other marketing events. Also, many “free” vacations have a litany of fees attached. Always read the fine print before you sign anything, and be wary about giving out your credit card number.  Remember: if someone takes your credit card number, it's likely that they intend to charge something to it.

ONLINE TRIAL OFFERS – Before you click a button that says “I agree” to any online contract, make sure you know what you are agreeing to. And look out for any pre-checked boxes that trap you into terms that you don’t like, such as expensive shipping for a supposedly free product.

REFUND ANTICIPATION LOANS – Some tax preparation businesses say they can get you your refunds faster. What they’re really offering you is speedy delivery of your money, in the form of "refund anticipation loans."  But you might end up paying high interest rates and fees just to get your money a few days sooner.