Buyer Beware: internet freebies

(Columbia) Feb. 17, 2005 - iPods, computers and even designer handbags are all being given away on the internet.

Taking off on sites like and or if Prada, Coach or Luis Vuitton is your thing, then check out You pay zip, but the hottest bags are worth anywhere from $495 up to $550.

Here's how it works. Say you want a free iPod, you register on, then pick from a long list of products and services you're willing to purchase or try out. Then get five friends to sign up for the any of the services offered and you've got yourself a free iPod.
The more valuable the giveaway, the more people you have to recruit. It takes eight friends to get a flat screen. Peter Martin with Gratis Internet, the company that operates more than a dozen of these marketing sites, "We have tens of thousands of people actually join, and we've actually given away over three and a half million dollars worth of iPods."

Erica Davis was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a try. She signed up for an online movie rental service, got her friends to sign up too and she got her iPod, "It was definitely worth it."

Not everyone is that lucky. In fact, complaint sites like are filled with warnings from people who say they've been conned by different freebie sites.

Susan Grant is with the National Consumers League. She says some sites make you jump through hoops and spend a lot on services to qualify for the "free" gift. She says most sites are legit, but you have to be careful, "A website could be set up simply to collect people's personal information. It's also possible that you could agree to buy something and never get the free product."

Grant says before you go into a freebie frenzy, check out a site's privacy policy, make sure it won't sell your personal information and search for satisfied customers, "If it's not a company that you know and trust, you have to proceed with caution."

Erica did and she says it's really paid off. She's now working towards a desktop PC and advises, "It's not super easy, but it's not difficult at all and if they want stuff like cameras, purses, PC's, everything's out there."

Web marketers say, if people feel cheated, it's often because they don't take the time to read a site carefully and understand everything they need to do to earn a gift. Gratis Internet says its sites are safer than many because it doesn't collect any personal information until after you've already won your prize. At that time, workers obviously need your shipping address. The company guarantees it never spams and never sells your information.

Reported by Judi Gatson
Posted 10:11pm by BrettWitt