As you no doubt know, we’re big fans of MoneyMagpie.com, one of the most savings-savvy websites around. Jasmine Birtles is here to tell us how to sort the genuine freebie website from the fakes. Take it away, Jasmine!
Freebie sites are a great way to save money. Why pay for something when you can get it for free?
And there are a lot of genuine free things you can get online and offline (as our article for 50 ways to live for free will attest). As expected, however, there are scammers out there looking to take advantage of your desire for a freebie. Let’s look at the biggest warning signs of a bogus website so you can side-step a ton of heartache…
What to ask yourself about a freebie site before signing up
How does it look? Most genuine freebie sites will have a decent, well-kept and presentable website. They’ll tend to offer samples rather than big products, so make sure the offer doesn’t sound too good to be true.
What are they offering? Most freebies will only be worth a few pounds (unless you’re using a site like Freecycle where free – usually second hand – items are provided by members of the public).
What’s the catch? Remember, even genuine sites are a business (they need money to keep going) so you must use them with caution.
Are you a fan of spam? One of our top tips is to set up a second email address when applying for freebies as you’ll probably receive a lot of spam emails from them. Make it more manageable by having a separate account.
Is it an affiliate? Freebie sites also tend to use a fair amount of affiliate links. If you’re not sure what an affiliate link is, it’s basically a link which pays the site a small pay-out if you sign up for the item. There’s nothing wrong with affiliate links, although the website should clearly point these out when they’re used.
Is free always best? They’re an important part of internet marketing, but it does mean even genuine freebie sites might be pushing the odd slightly naff freebie because they get a higher pay-out for it.
Taking freebies at face value? Annoyingly some freebie sites will give the higher paying links the most visibility, so do make sure you dig around to find the best offers and never feel compelled to sign-up to a freebie just because it’s getting a lot of exposure.
How to spot a fake site
- They want you to pay : First things first, never pay for a freebie. It kinda defeats the object. This might sound like obvious advice, but it’s amazing how our judgment can be affected by the offer of something fabulous that looks free. Be instantly suspicious of any site asking for payment for postage because chances are you won’t receive the goods, and they now have your credit card information.
- Fake free trials : Similarly, be careful with ‘free trials’ that ask you to enter your credit card information first. These kind of offers can be perfectly legitimate (for example, Netflix gives you a free month trial on this basis) but only do it through a site you totally trust and make sure you know how to cancel before the month comes to an end.
- ‘Too good to be true’ offers: As with most things in life you should operate on the basis that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. As mentioned earlier, most freebies are only worth a few pounds so be very cautious if you see a ‘free’ gift card worth £10. There’s probably either a catch, or it’s a scam.
- Dodgy design: You should also be suspicious if the site is poorly designed and/or packed full of advertisements. If your mouse can’t move for adverts, get off the site – it’s probably a nasty site and certainly not worth your time! Equally be very cautious of any freebie that needs an application to be downloaded first; it could well be a virus. (If anything does start downloading, close the window immediately and run a virus scan on your computer.)
- Too demanding: Never provide your card or bank details when using a freebie site (you’ll have to give your address to get the freebie delivered) and if you do have to use a password, make sure it’s different to your usual passwords (although you should be using a different password for different sites anyway).
- Dodgy reviews: If you’re not sure about a site, look up the company on Google and see if there are any reviews. If the company does not exist or has provided false contact information, get off the site. If you have a feeling something isn’t right, even if you’re not sure what, go to a different more reputable site instead – your online safety has to be priority.
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