College Central®

Ask around. The Network works.®

Free laptops, Ipods, Digital Cameras. Scams or Not?

Nicholl McGuire -- Registering online for that free gift is no guarantee that you're going to enjoy that freebie. In fact, sometimes you give more than you may receive.

Surfing the Internet one day, a student suddenly has a problem with his laptop. A series of flashing warnings lead to the computer shutting down and ultimately cause it to stop working.

He quickly runs over to his roommate's computer and begins an intense search looking for a reasonably priced computer.However, they are all too expensive for his budget. He makes a call to mom who isn't interested in listening to his computer problems, nor is she sending him money to buy a new one. He hangs up the phone, disgruntled, until he notices a banner ad that boasts a Web site, entitled

Little does he know, this site is one of many fraudulent freebie Web sites, many of which are posted at The consumers on the site report their gifts were never received. One consumer stated, "I responded to a popup on my computer offering a free laptop. The terms to get the laptop required that I register, complete 10 offers from various companies (2-silver, 2-gold, 6-platinum). Each of the offers that I subscribed to required a low cost trial or required full cost purchase. I also referred two friends who also referred two friends...

At first, many of my purchases were approved, so it seemed as if everything was moving along smoothly. When items that I had paid for and received were not approved, I wrote to the promotion company through their 'contact us' section... I wrote to them at least five times during the two months and never received a response... I was not able to get the laptop even though I fulfilled the participation requirements."

The determined student clicks on the banner ad and begins a survey that turns out to be the longest one he has ever filled out in his life! Almost four hours of pages asking him to complete offers, most of which require a credit card. After hesitating about providing his credit card information, he grabs his card anyway and, when it is all said and done, he has completed over $500 in offers. He tells himself he won't need any of the things he has ordered and he will just send them back once he gets his laptop.

Well, the companies anticipate that is what most consumers will do, so they make sure their members will make more than one purchase to fulfill company requirements. Also, the Web site he clicked on for the free laptop stated in fine print that he will not get any credit for his memberships if he cancels before 60 days. Further, the companies have his credit card information so they will bill him before he has the time to respond. Meanwhile, participating companies have yet to let the free laptop Web site know that he has completed offers.

After several emails, a few phone calls and a couple of forum room discussions, all pertaining to why he has yet to receive credit, three months have passed and no laptop. Feeling scammed, he contacts various organizations to let them know about the fraud. Others came forward telling him about their experiences. He is angry at himself for having fallen for the scam and posts various blogs and forum topics about his ordeal. People who have had positive experiences receiving their gifts begin to contact him defending the companies. He thinks maybe those happy consumers got theirs because the company is trying to save face. Whatever the case maybe, free isn't really free, now is it?

With this chapter of his life closed, he moves on and finds out that a family member is awaiting a free iPod and her friend is in the process of trying to get a digital camera from yet another site. Unfortunately, they didn't get their free electronics, but for smaller gift items like infant formula and a $25 gift card, those items were sent almost immediately...go figure?!

Nicholl McGuire, Freelance Writer, enjoys surfing the Internet for ways to save people money and time with do-it-yourself services. If you have the patience to learn something new, then you'll want to stay tuned to future articles by this writer. Visit

© 2008 Nicholl McGuire

Return to top

The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.