Are all the offers for free designer handbags, video systems, plasma TVS, etc. scams, or can you actually get the prizes? Internet ScamBusters #192
Today we answer a question that we've gotten from a lot of subscribers: are the emails and websites that promise free designer handbags (or computer equipment, or plasma TVs, or video game systems, or other valuable prizes) legit? In other words, can you actually get these prizes -- or are they all scams?
We'll tell you the story of a friend who decided to find out the real scoop -- and whether or not she ever got her free designer handbag.
Let's get going with today's article...
Can You Really Get Free Designer Handbags and Other Valuable Prizes?
Let's begin with a story: We recently spoke to a friend we'll call "Emily" who complained about how many times she'd received an email promising a free designer handbag worth hundreds of dollars -- but she had always passed up the offer. Emily said she thought it sounded too good to be true.
After all, she asked: "Who wouldn't want a handbag from designers like Fendi, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Coach -- free?"
We advised Emily NOT to do what she wound up doing. But against our strong advice and her better judgment, Emily decided to see what would happen if she followed through.
Emily said she'd report her results -- so that if it was a scam like we predicted, at least our subscribers could benefit from her mistake. (Please don't try this at home -- you'll see why as we share her story.)
Just Because They Say It's Free Doesn't Mean It Is
Here's what happened: Emily visited the link in the email and was brought to a website where she was offered the choice of a Fendi bag, a Marc Jacobs bag, a Gucci bag or a Coach bag.
The values of these bags ranged from seven hundred dollars to seventeen hundred dollars.
The website asked Emily to select the bag she wanted and to provide them with her email address.
She thought: "Doesn't sound like too much to ask for considering the reward being offered, right?"
She thought that if her email address really was the only thing they wanted from her, it may have indeed been a good deal.
However, Emily dug a bit further and found out what that bag would really cost her.
Get Ready For Spam
It's a good thing she did.
It seems that the companies that offer these types of promotions don't keep your information confidential.
If you do provide your email address to one of these websites, get ready for a boatload of spam in your inbox. And if you think opting out of the mailing list will save you frustration, you're wrong.
Fortunately, Emily followed our advice from previous issues of ScamBusters here: she used a "throw away" email address. And that is exactly what she had to do with that email address!
But There's More
If you think a designer bag is worth selling your information to strangers (especially using a throw-away email address), there's a lot more you need to know about these offers.
To actually get the prize you're being promised, you have to complete a survey.
The survey asks for your name, address and phone number and then bombards you with dozens of online offers and asks you to check a box indicating whether or not you're interested in each offer displayed.
Emily said that getting through the twenty-minute bombardment of offers was bad enough.
Then she found out that she HAD to complete a total of ten separate offers to qualify for the bag. Accepting these offers would involve getting phone calls or paying money.
It was becoming clear that this bag was not going to be "free" at all.
Take It a Step Further
Let's assume you didn't mind your inbox being spammed or your information being sold and there were actually ten offers you wanted to accept. You'd get your bag, right?
Not only do you have to complete ten offers, you have to refer five people from separate households to the site and all five of those people also have to accept ten offers.
Now let's say each of the five people you refer actually complete ten offers. Then you get your bag, right?
No, not yet.
Those five people each have to refer five more people -- then you qualify for the bag.
What are the chances of that happening? Probably almost none.
So Who's Getting the Prize?
These not-so-free offer sites don't always offer free designer handbags. Some offer gift certificates to stores, others offer gift certificates to restaurants, some offer laptop computers and others offer video game systems.
The prizes change, but the end result remains the same.
When most people visit one of these sites they enter their information, accept a few offers and then realize there is no possible way they are going to actually get the prize. At that point they exit the site.
The companies that run these websites count on people leaving the site in the middle of the process. That way they don't have to give you the prize.
The company now has your personal information and will sell it to third parties for a profit. The company has also profited from the few offers you did complete.
A Waste of Time -- At Best
Here's Emily's conclusion: "The website owner now has a bundle of cash at your expense and you have absolutely nothing. In fact, you've just wasted a bunch of your time."
The average person spends at least twenty minutes at one of these sites before they realize the direction in which things are going -- and that they will never get the prize.
One more thing: some of these sites are even worse than we just described. Even if you miraculously managed to jump over all the hurdles to get your prize, you still wouldn't receive it -- since some of these sites are outright scams. And there is no way to know beforehand.
So do yourself a favor -- avoid spam and websites that offer free designer handbags or other valuable prizes.
(And no, Emily never got her "free" designer handbag.)
That's it for now -- time to close for today. Wishing you a wonderful week.