Every day, you see pop-up advertisements and advertisements on your search engine’s home page for free stuff. This can range from free downloads to free merchandise and just about anything in between.
If you’re like most people, the word “free” immediately captures your attention. However, before clicking on “send it now” or “let me have it,” you should take the time to do a little research.
It’s true that the majority of free stuff online, especially those things sponsored by well-known and well-recognized national companies, does come without strings attached. Other offers, however, may not be so straightforward. Some of them may be scams, and some may actually be ploys to breach your computer’s security features.
One way you can determine if free downloads or free stuff online may be suspect is to check for the website’s security features. Many of them will display a symbol, logo, or other indication that they use a specific security feature on your order or reply pages to protect information that’s sent to them.
Another thing to look for is how much information the website wants you to provide before processing your request. At the most, a company should only ask for your last name and first name (and if they ask for this, just put in your first initial), and your e-mail address. If a company asks for more information, it’s best to pass on this offer of free stuff online.
A legitimate company may also ask you to type a combination of letters or numbers. This is a good thing. It shows that the company is concerned with privacy issues, and that it wants to make sure your information is protected.
Also, look for tell-tale phrases such as “requires participation in…,” “must accept three other offers…,” and similar ones. These may not be scams, but the participation of additional offer acceptance may be where the costs are hidden.