Consumer Scams FAQ

I received something in the mail that I never ordered. Do I have to pay for it?

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I received something in the mail that I never ordered. Do I have to pay for it?

You don't owe any money if you receive an item you never ordered -- it's considered a gift. If you get bills or collection letters from a seller who sent you something you never ordered, write to the seller stating your intention to treat the item as a gift. If the bills continue, insist that the seller send you proof of your order. If this doesn't stop the bills, notify the state consumer protection agency in the state where the merchant is located. You can also complain about mail fraud to your local U.S. Attorney's office and the local postal inspector.

If you sent for something in response to an advertisement claiming a free gift or trial period, but are now being billed, be sure to read the fine print of the ad. It may say something about charging shipping and handling, or worse, you may have inadvertently joined a club or subscribed to a magazine. Write the seller to:

  • offer to return the merchandise
  • cancel any club membership or magazine subscription you don't want
  • ask the seller to take your name off any mailing list, and
  • state that you believe the ad was misleading.

If charges show up on your credit card statement, call and then write the credit card issuer. Tell it that:

  • you do not authorize any further charges for the club or magazine
  • you have cancelled the membership or subscription, and
  • the ad was misleading and you did not knowingly join or subscribe.

Send the letter to the address specified by the card issuer for disputed charges (most likely on your monthly billing statement).

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