Trojan horse: An advertising offer
In business, a trojan horse is an advertising offer made by a company that is designed to draw potential customers by offering them cash or something of value for acceptance, but following acceptance, the buyer is forced to spend a much larger amount of money, either by being signed into a lengthy contract, from which exit is difficult or by having money automatically drawn in some other method. The harmful consequences faced by the customer may include spending far above market rate, a large amount of debt, or identity theft.
The origin and the offer
The term originated in England in the 2000s, and has spread to other parts of the United States, is also sometimes misused in reference to an item offered seemingly at a bargain price. But through the fine print and other hidden tricks, the item is ultimately sold at above market rate.
Some of the items involved in trojan horse sales include cash, gift cards, or merchandise viewed as a high-ticket item, but the item actually being given away is made cheaply, has a very low value, and does not satisfy the expectations of the recipient. Meanwhile, the victim of the trojan horse is likely to end up spending far more money over time, either through continual withdrawals from the customer’s bank account, charges to a debit or credit card, or add-ons to a bill that must be paid in order to avoid loss of an object or service of prime importance (such as a house, car, or phone line).