Subscription trap

Subscription trap: What to do? How can I protect myself and how can I defend myself?

Subscription traps online: One click with lasting consequences 

A free product, free trial or sweepstakes: The subscription trap has different faces. If you don't pay attention for a moment, you might unintentionally sign a standing order. We will show you how you can recognize subscription traps in good time and protect yourself against criminal account debits.

The essentials in brief:

 » A subscription trap lures consumers with seemingly free or very cheap deals, but actually locks them into an expensive subscription.

 » With careful handling of sensitive data and a keen eye for hidden costs, you protect yourself from subscription traps.

 » If you have become the victim of a subscription trap, you can make use of the right of withdrawal or the "Button Solution" law.


What is a subscription trap? 

A subscription trap is a fraudulent scam on the Internet that robs customers of their money with attractive offers. The perpetrators lure their victims with the seemingly perfect deal, but in reality tie them to an expensive subscription. As a rule, price information is hidden in a very small font or is omitted completely. In this way, the buyer only finds out how lucky he is after he has received a large bill.

Online subscription traps work in different ways:

• The trial subscription is the most common method used by internet pirates to initiate the unwanted recurring payment. If the victim is still happy about the cheap special offer, after the 14-day cancellation period has expired the first bill unexpectedly rattles its way into the mailbox.  

• Other subscription traps disguise themselves as a supposedly one-time payment. But in reality, customers expect a regular subscription with recurring fees.
Be careful: It is particularly important to carefully examine the terms and costs of a subscription when you are dealing with offers from companies you are not familiar with.

How do I recognize subscription traps? 

From streaming websites for films and series to dating portals and online casinos. Subscription traps are widely scattered on different online portals. It is often not that easy to identify dubious sites in the sea of providers. The Internet pirates arm themselves with professional websites and mean tricks to lure customers into the subscription trap. However, there are some signs you can use to spot the scammers:

How to recognize subscription traps:

 ✓ Seductively low prices: Be sceptical of prices well below the market average. Scammers often lure you with offers that sound too good to be true.

 ✓ Missing or incomplete information such as dubious contact details, incomplete terms and conditions, confusing navigation or spelling and grammatical errors indicate a rip-off.
 ✓ Aggressive solicitations put pressure on the consumer and try to induce a premature purchase. Don't be fooled and read the fine print.

 ✓ Beware of pop-ups that appear unexpectedly and ask for data entry. These can be part of a subscription are dealing with offers from companies you are not familiar with.

sk for data entry. These can be part of a subscription are dealing with offers from companies you are not familiar with.

How can I avoid subscription traps? 

There are several ways to avoid subscription traps. Here are some tips:

1.    Find out about current subscription trap trends on the Internet and read reviews from other consumers about the offer you are interested in.
2.    Use secure payment methods such as the Swiss Bankers prepaid credit card, which allow a chargeback if you have fallen into the subscription trap.
3.    Be careful about giving out personal information. Providing a temporary email address to obtain a quote can protect you from data theft.
4.    Trusted anti-virus software protects against malware that can redirect to subscription trap websites.

These laws protect against subscription traps 

Have you fallen into a subscription trap and are looking for a way out? Current laws to help you take action against online scammers:

• 'Button Solution' law: 
Since 2015, consumer protection has required the clear declaration of price, contract period and additional costs immediately before the purchase is made. A clearly marked button must refer to the obligation to pay with wording such as 'order with obligation to pay; or 'buy'. If the button does not contain a clear indication, it is contestable and you can revoke the subscription trap. If in doubt, take a screenshot of the offer. This way you have proof afterwards that the offer was advertised as 'free'.

• 14-day cancellation: 

Was the contract behind the subscription trap legal? Regardless of the 'Button Solution' law, you can make use of the 14-day right of withdrawal in the event of a subscription. Within this period you can cancel any online purchase without giving reasons. After that, the right of withdrawal expires and you are bound to the contract.

Where do I report subscription traps?

• Criminal or civil action: Report to the police if you are the victim of fraud or a crime.

• State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO): There is a form on the SECO website that consumers can use to submit complaints if they have been affected by scams.

• Consumer organizations: You can also report fraudulent practices to consumer protection and thus protect other consumers from a subscription trap.

The danger of the subscription trap: Why you should protect yourself 

The scam of the subscription trap is actually nothing new. Even before the advent of the Internet, unsuspecting consumers were enticed into continuous payment on coffee trips or with subscriptions to magazines. However, the cost trap on the Internet has reached a level where even experienced buyers might be unprotected. So mean tricks make the subscription trap on the Internet a particularly treacherous affair for Internet users. Be careful and don't forget about the tricks scammers use:

• Difficult to detect

The subscription trap on the Internet is not so easy to spot among the multitude of websites, pop-ups, advertisements and campaigns. With the aim of deceiving their victims, scammers use nasty tricks: from the deceptively real website to downloading free programs. A subscription trap can hit anyone. That's why it's important to find out about current subscription traps on a regular basis. The Reporting and Analysis Centre for Information Assurance MELANI of the National Centre for Cyber Security keeps you up to date on current subscription traps and phishing incidents.
• Long minimum contract term

Once the right to cancel a subscription has expired, the options for withdrawing are limited. Hidden subscription traps are particularly nasty, since the buyer does not know anything about the fraud until the account is debited or even until the first dunning notices are issued. It is often too late to act on time: The buyer is bound to his contract up to the minimum contract period.

• Misuse of data

If sensitive data falls into the wrong hands when signing up for a subscription online, this can have devastating consequences for the consumer. Never give out your e-mail address, postal address or even bank details carelessly. In some cases, subscription traps can even burden the consumer with malware or viruses.

Subscription traps are treacherous and can have serious consequences. That's why it's important to surf the web carefully and be sceptical about offers that sound tempting. Discuss current scams with people around you or find out about current trends in subscription traps on the internet at MELANI.

Are you a Swiss Bankers customer and been a victim of internet fraud?

Report the abuse using our contact details: Phone: +41 31 710 12 15 / email: or use our contact form. Our service team will take care of cancelling the transaction or blocking your credit card.