Free Electronic Cigarette TrialsHave you been scammed?
It's over four years since we wrote this post, and we're still hearing reports of e-cig scams. (See the comments below this for some examples.)Typically, the victim has bought an electronic cigarette from someone advertising a free trial - and they're wondering why their money is suddenly disappearing from their bank account.
How the E-Cigarette Free Trial Scam WorksHere's what happens:
1. You see a website which advertises a free e-cigarette. 2. Even though the e-cigarette is free, you are required to put your credit or debit card details in. 3. You get your electric cigarette. Chances are, it is a low quality version, with leaking e-liquid and dodgy components. Let's just hope the company didn't skimp on testing their safety and quality testing too! 4. After a short period, money (usually £50 or so) starts going out of your bank account on a regular basis - for refills!
5. Your bank tells you it is a legitimate scheme, and you need to get in touch with the e-cigarette company which sold you the e-cigarette to cancel it.
I know from making other enquiries that my bank wouldn't stop anything. They'd take it as an ordinary direct debit. Once you've made contact with whatever company and paid them for something, the bank will refuse to step in.6. You try to cancel the trial, and find it impossible or very difficult to get hold of the company. 7. You end up cancelling your card, and have to change all your direct debits as a result.Here's what Julie Parnell told us in the facebook comments on this post:
Got my fingers burnt! I ordered a cheap trial starter pack for £7.99, then at Christmas time I had £59 taken from my bank account. My bank refused to refund me, so I had no alternative but to stop my bank card! I couldn't get any money out until my new card and pin arrived! Very stressful and upsetting! I had to borrow money to buy food and put petrol in my car! The company were impossible to get hold of!
7 Ways to Avoid Free Electronic Cigarette ScamsObviously, there may be some variation, and for all we know there may be some companies which are a bit more legitimate who are doing it. However, if you are thinking of using one of these free trials, consider doing the following:
1. Avoid anything promising you something for nothing.
And as the title of this post suggest, that particularly goes for anything with the word free trial.
2. Don't always go with the cheapest option.
Sometimes those apparently low, low prices are designed to hook you in.
3. Compare prices
At the same time, prices of follow up refills might be ridiculous, and some hard sells are just way overpriced. Compare prices before you buy!
3. Check the terms and conditions.
Yes, it's boring. But these companies get away with scams precisely because people can't be bothered to look at terms and conditions.
4. Watch out for false claims.
Currently e-cig companies are not allowed to make health claims or quit smoking claims unless they have medical authorisation (and hardly anyone does!) False claims have been a signature of fly-by-night companies.
5. Google the company name to see if other people have reported.
If the scam has been around for a while, it's probably been reported.
Consider posting a question on an e-cigarette forum or on a facebook group such as Vaper's Network, or Vapors Lounge to see if anyone else has used them. There's even a facebook group specifically dedicated to exposing scams: Ecig Vendors, and Ecig Products that are NOT Recommended!
7. Look for testing reports
Reputable companies batch test their e-liquid in government approved labs. Here's what to look for.
8. Check to see if the company is a member of a trade association.
In the UK reputable trade organisations include the IBVTA (which we are a member of) and the UK Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association.
One of the worst things about the scam is that it is likely to put some people off the electronic cigarette for life. But the electronic cigarette remains a device which has the ability to change people's lives for the better.With a bit of research, you'll find ethical companies which are more concerned with building long term relationships with customers than making a quick buck from a scam.
I've been scammed. What should I do now?1. Get in contact with your bank immediately. When I had a similar experience, my bank were able to stop the company from taking any more money from my account.
2. It may also be worth getting in contact with Trading Standards, although unfortunately some of these companies are based overseas.
3. Contact the company - and be persistent! In the comments below, Peter Edis describes how he got his money back:
To successfully get a FULL REFUND on unsolicited packs mailed to you and money taken from your account without your consent, you HAVE to be persistent, never give up!See the comments below for the full story of how Peter managed to get a refund.
Have you been scammed? Please leave your story below in the comments so other people don't have the same experience.
If you found this post useful, I'd love it if you'd share it using one of the buttons below. It could stop someone else from being scammed!
Thank you :)