There’s a plethora of freebies and free sample offers available online. Just like any other online endeavor, it is good to proceed with a certain amount of caution and be aware of what companies you’re dealing with and the legitimacy of the offers. The internet is full of scammers, but by following a few simple guidelines you can keep yourself safe while enjoying some great freebies.
If you’re new to online freebies or already know the joys of free samples, I recommend you check out my tips to make sure you’re safe and smart.
Set-up a Freebie Email Address
Before you fill-out a single form, sign-up for a separate email address. This is essential because as you sign-up for more and more offers, you will inevitably opt-in to a few newsletters and other emails that aren’t as important as messages from your friends or family. This is why it’s best to keep your personal emails separate.
Signing up for a new email will take just a minute and save you hours of headaches later. Gmail, Yahoo, and many other companies offer great email service for free—you can even think of it as your first freebie.
Know Who’s Offering the Freebie
Before you enter any information on a website, make sure you know how trustworthy the site is. When dealing large, well-known companies, you’re probably safe, but don’t automatically discredit a company if you’ve never heard of it. Browse the rest of the website or even do a web search for the company name or the freebie you’re interested in. If there’s something fishy going on, chances are somebody else has encountered it and shared their grievances online.
Another way to stay informed is by joining forums or following blogs related to freebies. There you can connect with other freebie fanatics who not only share freebies but also warn about scams to look out for.
Control the Info You Give Out
To receive these freebies, you will have to give out some personal info. The standard requirements are usually the following:
- Mailing address
- Birth date
Some forms may also ask for additional info, like what products you’ve used in the past or how you heard about the offer. Some of the information is required (usually indicated by an asterisk*) in order to submit the form, but not always. If it’s not required, then don’t answer it.
If the form asks for extremely sensitive information, like a social security number, do not give that out. I’ve never seen a freebie that justifies giving out a social security number.
You Don’t Have to Opt-in
At the bottom of the form, before you submit, there are usually a few check boxes. Most likely one of those will be to acknowledge that you agree to the terms and conditions of that particular offer, and that will have to be checked to continue. The other boxes should be optional and are usually offers to opt-in for newsletters or other communications from that company or even third party companies. This is up to you. If you’re using a separate email address it may not be a big deal to sign up for a couple newsletters, but if your preference is to get as little email as possible then don’t opt-in.
Some freebie opportunities will require you to sign-up for a newsletter or be a member to access special web areas to sign-up for the freebies. These situations usually lead to more freebies, coupons, and exclusive deals down the line and can be worth signing up for.
Follow Your Instincts
If the offer seems fishy or there’s something about the website or the information they’re asking for that makes you uncomfortable, then don’t sign up. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
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Shorttask.com is a website I Stumbledupon several months ago. At first glance, it looked like a blatant rip-off of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, but I figured it might be worth checking out some time, so I bookmarked it and haven’t really thought about it since then.
I had some spare time today, and there weren’t any enticing tasks on Mturk, so I decided to try out Shorttask. When I went to the site things seemed a little fishy.
When I browsed it before there were tons of hits similar to the type on Mechanical Turk: transcriptions, reviews, etc. Today the tasks were a little more suspicious, things like “Post an ad on Craigslist” and “Try our website.”
Curious about this suspicious change, I did a little digging. Stumbleupon has blocked the site from being rated. Some Googling found a blog post at American Maestro about a scammer named A. Harrison Barnes, who started the Shorttask website.
I won’t go into all the details here. All you need to know is that Shorttask is a scam, so stay away. If you’re interested in the concept try Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. It’s legit.