A credit card with a mouse trap attached.

The Great Electronic Cigarette Free Trial Scam

Free Electronic Cigarette Trials

Have 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 Works

Here’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 Scams

Obviously, 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.

6. Ask!

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 🙂

Leave a comment:

51 thoughts on “The Great Electronic Cigarette Free Trial Scam

  1. I have just fallen for this with e cigs to the tune of £66!! I am totally furious that this has been taken from my bank! Who would know to look for a scam? What can I do about it? I have emailed threatening trading standars of course, but cant even remember the website! I feel sure this will be one of many cases brought to their attention….

  2. Thanks! Today I received my ‘Trial Offer’ and then saw your article. I immediately rang my Credit Card Customer Service that confirmed I couldn’t do much about it. They did however agree that the easiest way out would be cancelling my card. This they happily did for me and will be sending a new one with a new number.

    1. Hi Oceaneagle,
      I too managed to cancel my card before they could take anymore money, now I have received an email from them asking me to contact them to make alternative arrangement for payment.
      I have ignored it but do worry that they will take action against me.

      1. I was scammed took £59 from my bank account cancelled my card then yesterday received two packs of refills no address to return them invoice saying home delivery 2pack 59.99 anyone know what I should do.

  3. I have fallen victim, this is the company as the telephone number is the same on the letter that came with 2 cartridge boxes this am
    https://www.ecigsbrand.com/webstore/default.aspx. Initially I ordered the free trial pack on August 17, and to day became suspicious when I received 2 cartridge boxes, phoned them up and asked if they had taken funds from my account. The rep said that they had removed £73…I went totally ballistic !! I shouted at him, and informed him that I would involve a solicitor. I spoke to the bank and disputes..the customer adviser is aware of this company and scam..he said that he was blocking it, and advised me to send back the products which are actually unopened, and then they will pursue a refund.

    1. I am really sorry that you have been scammed – glad the bank seems to be on the job, though, as far as I am aware banks have been reluctant to take action until now.

    2. Hi,

      I ordered the free trial for my dad to get him to stop. I received the free ones then 1 week later, 23rd Dec got two more packs for which I didnt sign ! On xmas day they also deducted £74 from my account which I didnt realise until later, I rang and returned on 2nd Jan, well within the 15day timeline, I recorded deliver returned the products. Its 19th Feb and still no refund. Did you ever get your money back ? I have emailed several times.

    1. There`s now real hope for all who have been scammed by this E-Cigs bunch of tricksters ! I DID it,I BEAT them, I NEVER gave up ! 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! First of all, their advertised Customer Service Email address is cleverly rigged so that you can NEVER receive a reply, and their phone number will always keep you waiting with the message that they are servicing `other oustomers` which is usually a pretence to try and ward you off! Initially,though,you do actually have to wait and speak to them, in order to demand cancellation of your unsolicited so-called `membership` and demand a full refund . They will then try and tell you that you have agreed to their `terms and conditions`etc.(which of course were never mentioned in their Trial Pack offer), and instead try and get you to accept another cheaper deal ! Refuse this adamantly,stand your ground,demand your refund,and tell them you will be taking numerous actions if your money is not refunded ! The first thing you MUST do is to contact your bank,report the scam,stop any future access to your account,and change your bank debit or credit card immediately! My own bank also promised to investigate if they hadn`t refunded me within 15 days ! Unfortunately, they will in all likelyhood STILL send the unwanted merchandise to you, claiming that the order has already been processed – they did to me, and that`s when I acted ! The next move is to immediately send them back UNOPENED in a jiffy bag to their WIGAN address,with their RMA number on the front if you`ve been given one ! You should also enclose a detailed letter threatening a battery of actions you propose to take if your money is not refunded.I personally threatened them with aggressive legal action following already taken sound advice; a full report on the scam to the appropriate Lancashire Police Authority covering the Wigan area; a full report to the BBC WATCHDOG team; Trading Standards ;newspaper articles to be submitted exposing the sca;, a fully researched awareness of their unethical operations,evasive tactics,and numerous website complaints against them, and anything else you can muster to unsettle them.Believe me,they do NOT want any adverse publicity and the potential closure of their UK operations. All it takes is for you to take ACTION ACTION ACTION,and I wish you luck – I`ve now got £73.98 BACK im my bank account ! PETER EDIS

        1. Thanks James, I appreciate your support and contributions on this great website. There are far too many online scams going on nowadays – this particular E-cigbrand Trial Offer rip-off actually appeared as an ad on a GUMTREE page would you believe !! – and it`s vitally important that we all take a stand against these soulless fraudsters ! Watch out, too, for the SANDA WELLNESS/WELLBEING etc. rosehip pill scam which targets the elderly by phone and then uses similar dirty tricks tactics as these E-cigs crooks to rob you of your money !

          1. Thanks Peter for the advice I will take action asap as this scam has just come to light on receiving my bank statement today I can’t believe I fell for this

      1. Well Done !

        The latest ploy from them, after my bank stopped them taking any further money, is now to tell me that is the reason thet cannot make a fefund ! what do you advise, shall I release the account ?

        1. Hi Jack, A similar thing happened to me (but with with redsave.com, not an e-cigarette company). The bank were able to stop the company from taking any more money, but not to obtain a refund, and the company didn’t answer emails or phone calls. I’ve written the money off, but the bank told me that no more money could be taken from my account. As long as the bank has put a block on payments I don’t think there is any need to close your bank account.

        2. Hi Jay, if you`ve read my previous post then you know what you have to do,you seriously MUST take similar action – you cannot let them get away with what amounts to the downright THEFT of your money ! Avoid bad language but threaten them with the same battery of actions I have already listed,and don`t fall for their rubbish excuse that they that they can`t refund you because your bank has blocked any further attempts on your account – they ALREADY have your account details from the original Trial Pack scam ! Don`t release them AGAIN (that`s asking for trouble !), because they can easily REFUND to your account even though they can`t ever TAKE from it again ! Phone your bank helpline again and get them to confirm this, and make sure they`re going to investigate on your behalf if the refund hasn`t been credited within a stipulated period (usually 15 days).And even though these scamsters advertised email address is deliberately rigged NEVER to give replies, you CAN actually reply to them if their CUSTOMER SUPPORT outfit (all phoney sweet-talk about now `top-notch`they are etc.) sends YOU an email – by simply clicking on reply to: [email protected] Repeat in brief the battery of actions you`ve got lined up, ask for an immediate reply and tell them you`ll not tolerate any more trickery or evasion ! It worked for me and it WILL work for YOU – so get moving ! One final comment : their brand of e-cigarette is truly obnoxious, and in my opinion a serious health hazard which merits reporting on those grounds alone !

      2. Hi.
        Unfortunately the victim of a similar scam. They keep insisting because i have disputed the charge with my bank they are unable to offer any type of refund because of this .

        Any advice??

  4. I am sorry to hear that, Fiona 🙁 One of the worst things about the scam that it puts many smokers of switching to a product which, when it is of good quality, is so much better than smoking.

  5. I’ve just had an encounter with Optima E Cigs and same thing happened to me. I ordered the free trial for my husband and he got the trial package and tried it. Terrible…had a very bad taste left in his mouth so he was not impressed at all.
    Free trial did not say anything other than you pay for the shipping and that was it. This trial was on 2-7-2013 and today on 2-20-2013 I found $116.93 + $3.51 ISA fee(International Service Fee)debited from my account! Same response I received an email Thanking me for my order of which I did not order anything and I returned the email to say just that. I then called them and was put on an ever ending hold. I called back several times and finally got a person and was very upset with her and she kept trying to sell me on all sorts of things but would not answer my refusal to just give me a refund of my money until the very last minute. I told her I had contacted my bank to dispute this charge and she said well then the bank has already given you back your money! I told her no they have logged a dispute and I am calling her to get a refund and to make sure they do not do it again. Finally she gave me a RMA number and told me that the shipment had already been sent so I was to return the complete shipment and all and they would refund the $116.93. I will not get the $3.51. So the bank sent me my dispute documents to fill out and they said it would take 10 business days to see what else could be done.
    This is really bad since if you were someone who would want to continue on their program they don’t even give you a chance to choose the strength of the nicotine or a flavor should you want it so they are doing themselves as well as everyone else a real disservice…..:((

  6. I Have also been took on with this scam.. I seen an e cig advertised on facebook for £4.99 which i ordered,after checking my bank account i was very shocked to find that they had taken not only £4.99 but a further £29.99 for 2 packs of refills which i did,nt order,,I never recieved the e cigerette just the refills,,,lot of good they are without the cig,,I also had a further £73.98 taken out of my account,,I have been on the phone to them on numerous occassions and they eventually said i could have a refund when i returned the products,,bit hard to return an item u haven,t recieved, have returned the refills and am still awaiting the remainder of my refund,,this is totally ridicously and should be banned by law,,,SO BEWARE PEOPLE….TAKE THIS AS A WARNING…..

    1. I got scammed by a company noflamecig.co.uk Ordered my starter pack £4.95 the got charged £69.99 AS I didn’t do a review didn’t see anywhere about this charge or about subscription charge. Also ordered goods on 21st June still not received 28.88. Guess I will just keep on at the company so angry can’t afford to lose this money.

  7. hi i also NEARLY got caught with this . saw ad on amazon, free trial just pay £4.99 p&p. i keyed in all my details (c.c. ) and after they had accepted order they then e-mailed to say they would send me supplies after 15 days and every 30 days thereafter. needless to say i hit the roof, luckily there was a uk phone number, so at about 9.45 pm a man felt the full force of my anger, i INSISTED the order be cancelled, pointing out that they could not have posted in 15 minutes, insisted i receive an e-mail confirming cancellation, and threatened them with all sorts of unwanted publicity if they sent goods. i seem to recall my parting words were ” you will regret ever hearing my name if this goes ahead ” i did get an e-mail confirming cancellation but i did contact credit card company the following day, they said they could not flag the site to not pay BUT if anything went from my account they would refund and then take the firm to task to get the money back.
    i must admit it made me very wary of trying the offer in a ladies magazine for the smokersangel, in the end i thought that if i did have a problem i would go through the magazine, however the offer was exactly what it said and the company have waited for me to re-order what i wanted with no scams.
    i have yet to receive my credit card bill but i know i can go to them and they will sort, fingers crossed i wont need to.

    1. I am sorry to hear you had a bad experience, although at least you seemed to have escaped losing any money. One of the worst things, IMO, about the scam is that it puts off smokers who have had a bad experience from switching to a safer alternative.

  8. On the fourth consecutive day of phoning e-cigs in Wigan on 0845 528 0833 to try and get my money back I spoke to “Robert”. I said I wanted my refund of £36.99 and that, no, I did not need a tracking number. He said he was putting me on hold. Instead, he cut me off. On re-dialing the number several times I get the recorded message that…”the number has been cancelled” Any help out there?

      1. James,

        This afternoon I dialed the original number prefacing it with 141, and eventually got through to the company. The “Ian” I spoke to used the same lame excuses of needing a tracking number before he could refund me. I then laid it on, not with a trowel, but with a dumper truck, threatening to take his organization to Manchester Trading Standards, to the Crime and Police Commissioner for the Manchester area, calling his organization not a company but a scam, etc etc. I also accused his organization of illegally withholding my money which was theft, and asking Ian if, as a named employed, he wanted to end up in jail I eventually wore him down and he agreed to refund my account within 10 working days. I shall examine my account with interest, and let you know if I do actually get any money back.

        Best wishes,

        Wulf

        1. I GOT MY MONEY BACK!!!

          Logging on to my account this morning I find I am credited with £36.99 from e-cigwarehous, and it only took two days! OH JOY!

          Persistence and threats do seem to work. Hopefully, they won’t take any more money, or I shall be on the phone again!

          Wulf

  9. Our dealings with e-cigs scam with their so called free trial which a few weeks later they took £73.98 from our account but they passed our debit details on to a Health & Home company who also helped themselves to a further £49.99, I managed to get back my £73.98 from E-cigs but health & home company that because they had sent us their package of a brochure & various coupons after 3 weeks had taken their amount of £49.99 would not refund our money,we have had to cancel our debit card to stop any further withdrawals. If I could curse a company and wish them all the worst luck it would be this company. we are pensioners and they are B.rs.ed

      1. Beware also of http://www.ecigsbrand.com. It seems they prevent you from phoning them and complaining by saying “the number has been cancelled” I suspect they have just blocked your phone number. I prefaced my call with “141” which keeps my number hidden, and I got through OK.

  10. E-cigs Wigan free trial just got me good and proper, applied for the free trial pack and opted to pay the p&p via credit card, got a phone call from their sales team to take payment and I specifically told him I was not interested in their club or any other offers just the free trial pack, now I find that the git signed me up and today received 20 cartomisers for the costly sum of £59 now fighting to get out and get my cash back, watch out for this one based overseas and UK web address and costomer service is fake and does not exsist you instead get the USA site and when I called the so called UK customer service I got India and he was totaly unhelpfull just insisted I must keep the package and pay the £59 to say I was angry with him is an understatment.
    If anybody has a direct phone number for this Wigan based E-cig Brand outlet I would be very gratefull for it.
    Phil

  11. Hi all I have been scammed too took £69.99 out of my bank for an order I never asked for, sent them a email to ask for a refund, the problem is I haven’t received them in the post yet

    What is the address I have to send them back too, I cant find the address anywhere

    1. I’ve looked on their website and it’s in their terms and conditions. It’s an address in the Netherlands. I’d advise you to read their T&Cs before returning their goods. There’s a great deal about sending stuff back by recorded delivery, expensive, and bearing no responsibility if they do not receive the returned items. Good luck.

  12. In the middle of May this year I took up an offer which was included with a Sainsburys ad which was emailed to me. This was for a cut price, £4.25, NoFlame vape device. Since then they’ve taken money out of my account after sending me two refill packs. Thankfully I haven’t opened them and don’t intend to. I’m unemployed and considered it to be a bargain, more fool me. No where on the offer did it mention I was entering into a subscription agreement and rather than being directed to their website it was all done via a pop-up to enter your card details etc. My bank has agreed to block any further debits and hopefully this will stop them. It was only today I realised what has been happening after finding all of my benefit had been wiped out. I’m left unable to pay any bills at present and in a very difficult situation. I’ll do my best to get a refund following the advice of Peter. Hopefully else I could be out on the street.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *