Freebies are products companies give to consumers at no price. Long before the establishment of the Internet, many companies handed out freebies in stores, provided mail-in offers and other ways to distribute their products. Giveaways are a great marketing tool for businesses. Usually these come in the form of small samples, a trial membership or other coupon offer. Occasionally, companies may offer an elaborate free offer, but there are typically strings attached. Most giveaways are normally token gestures.
After the Web was established, free offers became more available to consumers due to companies’ ability to obtain higher visibility. Today, consumers can obtain many products online, free of charge, by providing some personal information that is valuable to marketers. Others may want people to take a survey to highlight their personal preferences.
Unfortunately, while there are many legitimate offers for giveaways, there are many scams out there. Exploiters use the lure of free products or services in order to solicit information or convince a consumer to visit a rogue website. These are likely more common on the Internet, however telephone scams are not unheard of, as recently there have been reports of a scam targeted at senior citizens.
How do you know when “to flee from free”? Here are some red flags:
• Be leery of any offer that comes unsolicited. In this day and age, most often consumers have to request free items; the marketers do not typically call or email consumers at random.
• You’ll probably want to walk away from the offer if the company/individual asks for too much personal information. Many giveaway offers simply want email and name information, possibly gender and age. Beyond that, consider it a warning sign.
• If the offer asks for any credit card or social security information, be on alert. While some freebies are really trial offers rather than “free”, they may ask for a credit card payment. No company, however, should ever need your Social Security number.
• Run away from the offer if it does not offer any contact information on its website. If there is contact information, call the phone number to verify. According to Family Circle, scammers will sometimes put a random phone number on a website to make it look legitimate.
• Get away from the offer as fast as you can if anyone asks you to wire money. Scammers sometimes convince consumers they can get a free product, but need to pay for the shipping.
• Check to see if the offer comes from a website that is not a well-known business. For instance, if you are trying to get free diapers, these should be offered by the manufacturer, not a middle-man.
• Another red flag is if there are typos or other grammatical errors in the offer. Marketers are going to be very careful on how the business is perceived, the copy should be flawless.
• Be cautious of odd-looking URLs and don’t click if something looks amiss. Visiting a rogue website could lead to malware on your computer.
While freebies are fun to receive, the cost is too high if it turns out to be a scam. You could become a victim of identity or financial theft. Scammers often use highly enticing offers to trick people, but always keep in mind, if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it probably is not a legitimate offer.