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The Internet makes it incredibly easy to save. Within seconds, you can not only find the product you’re looking for, but possibly find a discount on it as well.
Unfortunately, scammers know that people are continually seeking ways to snag free stuff online. And they use this to lace the Web with scams that can separate you from your money or identity.
While we don’t advise skipping out on freebies altogether due to scams, we do suggest taking the following precautions to keep your personal information and money safe.
1. If it’s too good to be true, leave it alone.
Do you know how they say that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is? Well, that saying comes in extra handy when talking about freebies.
Can you find free stuff online? Absolutely. But most of the time, people or companies aren’t going to give something incredibly valuable away for free. If it’s a few dollars, however, then it’s more likely to be legitimate.
As tempting as it may be, stay away from freebies that offer high monetary value in the form of cash or coupons or valuable gifts, such as a car or house.
You may see promises for such free rewards if you fill out a form. But instead of getting that reward, you’ll only get bombarded with offers for things or services you don’t want.
Even worse, your information could be sold to someone else, which could lead to annoying solicitation or eventual identity theft.
2. Use reputable sites.
Big brands and stores like Kraft or Walmart may give out occasional free items. It’s a way of building brand loyalty or getting feedback on a product before it’s produced on a broader scale.
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Smaller brands can do the same to grow their presence. But as they offer free things, remember rule one. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. And if it’s from an unknown site, then you’re better off moving on.
Keep this rule in mind before filling out any forms or revealing any of your data. Scammers will do anything they can to entice you into giving up info so they can steal it and share it with others.
3. If it’s free, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.
The whole purpose of hunting for online freebies is to not pay a penny for the product. If they lead you down a path that eventually requires taking out your credit card, move on.
While asking for an upfront payment for a processing fee or to buy something is a no-no, companies can also hook you by offering a free trial.
Some may do this so you try their product and become a loyal customer. Others will do it knowing you’ll probably forget to cancel the trial so they can charge you. Also, they may just steal your credit card info when you enter it into a form.
In short, when any money or financial info is requested, it’s time to find a real freebie and not a fake one.
4. Keep certain information under lock and key.
If you genuinely want to play it safe, never reveal your social security number or your credit card information. Both are highly valuable to scammers. You may be asked for your address and name to receive the freebie, which is fine.
Also, if you really want to protect your privacy, make up an email account specifically for your freebie signups and searches. It will let you test the waters while remaining incognito.