Free magazine trial could cost you

HOUSTON If you agree to get a six month trial subscription for magazines, you may not realize your credit card information could be sent to the company selling the magazines. If you're not careful, that free trial could cost you.

An offer of free magazines may tempt you into signing up for something you may not want. Some stores are offering six months of free publications when you check out. But what consumers may not know is that if they agree to the offer, the store will share credit card information with the company selling the magazines.

After a few days, consumers will get a notice in the mail about the free trial subscription. The details on the magazine post card clearly state that if the consumer does not say 'stop,' the magazines will keep coming. The card goes on to say when the free trial is over your credit card will be billed every six months.

Consumers we spoke with say those notification cards would more than likely end up in the trash unread.

Susana Hernandez said, "I would think it is junk mail, basically throw it away and not even read it or anything like that."

Consumer advocates say the retailer and publishers are not doing anything wrong by sharing credit card information if the consumer agreed to the free trial offer.

"If you are agreeing to the purchase and you tell the cashier you'd like to get those free magazines, you are also agreeing to the subscriptions as well," explained Leah Napoliello with the Houston Better Business Bureau. "But you'll find out later when you start getting the charges on your credit card statements."

Napoliello says if consumers are offered a free trial they should know all the details before signing up because it may be on the consumer to keep that free trial from turning into a bill.

"Read through all the terms and conditions," Napoliello advised. "Don't just sign up on the spot because a cashier asks you about it."

The other point in all this is to read everything that comes to your home, even if it looks like junk mail. Most consumers we spoke with said they would have thrown away the magazine post cards without reading them.

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