How To Get A Free Laptop or Plasma TV Through Gift Reward Websites
Published 4/18/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
If you've ever encountered sites on the internet that claimed to offer brand new laptop computers, mp3 players, or even plasma TV's for free, I'm sure most of you jumped to the immediate conclusion that they must all be scams. Well, on some level you may be correct and your initial instincts serve you well. But the misleading deception is not that they don't actually give out laptops, it's that these so-called free laptop offers do require some up front financial commitment and mandatory participation in a few monthly subscription programs. However, if you have a keen eye for seeking out deals that require the least amount of out-of-pocket effort, and know how to manipulate the rules by taking advantage of free trial offers, it's possible to walk away with a brand new laptop for only a fraction of its fair market value.
What I'm about to share may be time consuming and require almost anal, obsessive compulsive organizational skills, but the potential payoff at the end is quite substantial. For those of you who need the laptop or fancy electronic gadget right away, you probably won't have the patience for what this process demands. The procedure takes some time to complete and requires a lot of waiting - up to four months usually from start to finish. To successfully game the system and earn your almost free reward product you will need to be detail-oriented and willing to exercise patience and follow directions to the letter. If you follow these instructions, you should be able to beat the gift reward system and earn your prize - whether it be a free laptop, Ipod, Xbox, Playstation, or even a free plasma TV. The gift reward process does work, but it is heavily dependent on your own persistence and ability to successfully micromanage your offers to completion. If you are the type to give up easily or freak out in despair at the first sign of trouble, I don't recommend any of this for you since you will likely crash and burn. For everyone else - good luck!
Background About Gift Reward Websites That Offer Free Laptops and Other Free Promotions
You may have heard about these websites that offer customers the chance to earn a free gift reward - usually an expensive prize like a notebook computer or even a plasma television set. I see these offers all the time and sometimes I even hear a few success stories here and there from friends (as well as a few horror stories) - but I never paid them much attention. I always assumed they were either spam offers or websites run by scammers. However it looks like some of these free gift reward companies are now branching out into mainstream media - running radio commercials, television spots, and featuring online banner advertisements on various websites.
These companies usually run a large number of similarly designed websites touting free laptops, free iPhones and an assortment of so-called free products. In exchange for you signing up yourself and/or referring a few friends to some of the company's paid services, the company is willing to offer you a free reward. Some programs only require that you yourself participate in select offers, while others require you to refer friends, family, and strangers. Personally I recommend staying away from referral programs since I think they are too much trouble. Ultimately, the reward provider makes money because the sponsors and affiliate programs they promote pay them a lot of money in the form of incentives and commissions for advertising their products. By requiring you and I to sign up for paid products and subscriptions, the prize company makes a lot of money through referrals, which they in turn use a portion of to buy gift rewards for those that qualify for redemption. The way to beat the system is to make sure you cancel your paid programs before the end of free trial periods, or at the very least after fulfilling the prize terms to minimize your overall expenditure. Even for those gift reward programs that limit the number of cancellations to a certain number, you can still seek out the least costly programs to participate in for the mandatory length of time.
The reality is that not all customers will successfully complete the reward redemption procedure and many end up paying more money for unnecessary services than the ultimate value of their reward. The prize system works because the company knows that a sizable portion of customers will fail to follow the rules and procedure and not fulfill the terms to qualify for their reward. This method of working the odds is also how credit card companies make so much money off of promotions like 0% balance transfer offers. They count on a certain percentage of people to fail to make the business enterprise financially profitable. But you can choose to be part of that percentage that does succeed. If you follow the rules to the letter and document your receipts, as well as stick to the terms and conditions, you may be one of those that come out on top.
Some may say these types of offers are nothing but scams, but frankly they are really no different than your so-called reputable mobile phone company offering you a "free cell phone" with a new 2 year long term cellular contract. The word "free" is loosely defined these days in the business world. These companies and websites probably need to put a bigger asterisk by the word "free," and indicate more prominently that additional terms and conditions apply. However, I think consumers need to take it upon themselves to read the fine print more carefully. In the world of free gift reward websites, the word "free" does not mean that the customer pays nothing out of pocket whatsoever - there is no such business model that could survive this way. When they say "free", what they mean is that the customer pays nothing directly to obtain the product, say a free laptop, but may have to subscribe and enroll in a few participating product promos to qualify. These product offers frequently do require financial commitment, but only for the length of time required for reward program fulfillment (usually 1-2 months). In many cases you can cancel the paid monthly subscriptions within the free trial period without incurring a charge. Of course, each reward program's terms and conditions vary so please read carefully.
Separating Scam Sites From The Safe, Legitimate Gift Reward Programs
You should never trust any reward site without first performing a detailed investigation into the company's business practice and identity, and thoroughly going over its terms and conditions. Just because a website looks legitimate doesn't make it so. You must also verify its identity to make sure you can trace and track down the company's customer support staff before engaging with it. As a lawyer myself, I always want to know the identity and primary business location of the company I'm dealing with in the event I need to file a lawsuit against the company for any possible future breach of contract or civil fraud claim.
One thing to note is that these free gift reward companies are not the most pristinely run operations. Their business model naturally generates a lot of angry customers and commentators who are particularly vocal about expressing their views on websites like Rip Off Report. However, you should also keep in mind that the world is frankly filled with quite a few absent minded people who simply cannot follow directions. While I'm sure the majority of the scam reports are legitimate, I think there is a substantial number that are written by disgruntled people who simply failed to follow directions and rules set forth by the company. The terms and conditions written by the company is a obligatory contract between you and them that goes into effect once you sign up and start participating in their reward program. It's important to follow the terms in great detail. Of course, this only applies to legitimate gift reward websites.
To Separate the Scammers From the Legit Businesses, You Must Do the Following:
- Verify Its Identity - The quickest and most direct way to verify a company's identity is to examine the information listed on the website. There should be a Customer Support, About Us, or Contact Us section where the company lists its identity and contact information. Legitimate websites ought to be transparent and you should be able to find and verify business identity information with relative ease. If you find a website that does not provide a telephone number or mailing address, I would advise you to be extra careful. Scam websites usually only include an anonymous contact form, without including an actual mailing address or verifiable phone number. There are also other ways to verify a company's legitimacy, including checking out the website's Who Is Internet registry information. Legitimate companies usually list their registry information openly, complete with actual addresses and verifiable phone numbers. If the company's information is hidden or anonymous, you should be extra careful and suspicious.
- Check Its Business Track Record - I usually run a few Google word searches to see if the company's name comes up anywhere. This helps with verifying identity and checking out the company's business track record. I'm looking to see whether it has a history of scamming people and whether it's under investigation. Oftentimes gift reward companies will show up on sites like Rip Off Report, but you shouldn't be immediately deterred by these consumer reviews without further investigation of your own. Use your own judgment about the reward provider and determine for yourself how trustworthy and reliable the program is. Remember, even great mainstream companies are bound to have a few customers here and there that simply have an unfounded grudge against them. You should also look the company up on the Better Business Bureau website. Keep in mind that companies frequently have multiple aliases and run similar operations under different names. If you find a phone number, you should try test calling to see if you can speak to a live person to verify the company's authenticity.
- Read The Terms And Conditions Carefully - It's crucial to read the terms and conditions of the website very carefully. I recommend saving the terms and conditions web page to your desktop by going to your browser window menu and selecting "Save As". This will allow you to retain the text in the form you found it and will help you keep a record in the event some sneaky company decides to secretly change their terms and offers without letting you know. Remember, this is your contract with the company. If something goes wrong and you must file a civil lawsuit or pursue a legal complaint against the company, this contract will lay out the details of your claim.
How To Beat the Gift Reward Process and Earn Your Almost Free Laptop Or Plasma TV
The first step is to obviously find a site that offers so-called free rewards. There are many of them out there and I don't recommend any of them in particular, but they shouldn't be too hard to find. In the future I will cite a few website examples and discuss my experiences with specific programs, but for now I leave the program search to you. Most of them show up in searches for "free laptops", "free ipods", and "free plasma TV's". Keep in mind that not all reward programs are legitimate.
Every reward program is different and specific terms and conditions vary so it's important you actually read each program's contractual details carefully before you even think of participating. However, their business models and the way they work are generally the same. There are two types of free reward programs - sites that don't require referrals and sites that do. Personally I hate referral programs because I don't like to bother my friends and family with spam and somewhat shady offers. If I'm going to get involved in some make money scheme/scam or reward program, I'd rather it only affect me and leave everyone out of it. That's why I advise everyone to avoid offers that require referrals altogether. They are too much of a hassle and will likely upset the people you send those offers to. Once again, always seek out the fine print. Read everything carefully.
1) Before you start, be sure you have properly verified the identity of the reward website and make sure you have assured yourself that the business is indeed trustworthy. Make sure you document every step of the way by saving to your computer the contents of all offer listings and pages containing terms and conditions. You should also take a screenshot of each page or make a paper printout of the offer terms. Having full documentation is very important and will ultimately save you from a major mistake. It may mean the difference of you receiving your "free" laptop or finding yourself disqualified from receiving your reward.
2) Usually the reward website starts out by asking you to select your free reward. This part is meant to sucker you in and get you overly excited about the prospect of receiving an expensive product like a laptop, Ipod, desktop computer, or cell phone. Make your selection carefully since you usually can't change your reward choice later after it's made. The site will usually require you to submit your e-mail address right from the start. Never enter your primary personal e-mail address. You should always use an alternate or fake one from Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail because your account will be spammed. However, the spam is part of the program concession and needs to be tolerated if you are to fulfill the program's terms.
3) Next, the website will usually ask you where it should send your free gift. This is when you have to enter your name, phone number, and address. Keep in mind that the mailing address you submit will likely be the target of any paid promotion they send you and may cause you to receive some junk mail for at least the duration of the promotion. If you want a fake phone number, you can always generate a free phone number online.
4) Some programs require that you refer a certain number of people and get them to sign up for the same product offers. I highly advise against getting into programs that require referrals. You don't want to alienate your friends, family, or even strangers over this. I prefer non-referral websites since you work on your own and don't have to annoy anybody. If your reward website is asking you to submit a list of your friend's e-mail addresses, ditch them and move on to another website.
5) The program will usually run you through a long list of short introductory surveys and ask if you want information on any number of products from pills, to coupons, to student loans, to strange male enhancement products, to crazy nutritional supplements. Just say no to all offers and make sure you clearly click no to every request. Clicking yes will likely result in unnecessary junk mail or unwanted promotional samples to be sent to you. Furthermore, none of these initial offers usually count towards your "free" reward product.
6) The next part demands the most work and requires extra attention to detail-oriented record keeping. After the intro survey, you will likely encounter one or multiple web pages filled with advertisement offers. You will be instructed to select a certain number of product offers from each page by clicking on the desired link and signing up through it. There can be anywhere from 5 to 40 total offers that you have to choose from. Depending on the program details, you may have to select anywhere from 5-10 of them total (but of course it varies). Usually as you progress from one offer page to another, the product terms become more restrictive and expensive. The first page usually contains the least expensive products followed by more expensive and more difficult to fulfill offers. Some reward websites may require you to pick a certain number of offers from each page. For example, one notable reward website separates offer pages by "silver", "gold", and "platinum" labels - requiring 2 offers from "silver", 2 offers from "gold", and 6 offers from the more restrictive and expensive "platinum" page.
I recommend completing all of your required offers in one sitting to better track your reward completion. Before you sign up for any offer, read through each product carefully, saving and printing out the pages of the ones you are interested in. Here is where you compare offers and determine whether the particular offer is too expensive or has too restrictive of a return policy. Most of the advertisers do offer free introductory trial periods ranging from a week to a month. Before the trial period is up, you are usually free to cancel and get your money back, minus shipping and handling (although sometimes shipping is also refunded). Remember that you are committing yourself to these product offers. Make sure the individual products have return and refund terms that are clearly stated so you don't get stuck with a permanent supply of useless furniture, foreign language tapes, or herbal supplements you don't need.
7) Signing up for mandatory product offers will require the use of a credit card. I don't recommend using a debit card because you want the purchase protections offered by credit cards in case something goes wrong and you either need to cancel your card number or need to protest an unauthorized transaction. Some of these advertisers have a habit of overcharging or continuing to charge even after customer cancellation. Thus you want all the purchase protection you can get.
8) I can't overemphasize the importance of documenting everything. You should create a table, chart, or spreadsheet of all your product offer names followed by the offer details, including the page the offer was found on ("gold", "silver" etc), estimated weekly or monthly cost, proposed cancellation date, and a section to indicate whether the item's fulfillment has been verified by the reward program provider. If the reward provider limits the number of program cancellations, you will want to clearly delineate that on your spreadsheet.
Save every single piece of material you have on all offers you participate in. Run screen shots, print out pages, and save entire web pages that contain information about terms and conditions. In the event something goes wrong, you will need this documentation to prove that you genuinely fulfilled the terms of the offer and are qualified to receive your almost-free gift reward. You don't want to go through all this for nothing.
9) After submitting your minimum required number of offers, you should regularly check your account to see when the offers have been fulfilled. Usually reward providers require you to fulfill their terms in 60 days to qualify for your "free" laptop or whatever reward you selected (the length of time varies). Your account should have a link location where you can check your gift reward status and verify that the advertiser products have been fulfilled and completed. Usually the advertisers are responsible for notifying the free reward center that you have successfully completed their offer, but that is not always the case. Sometimes the companies forget to report back to the reward provider site. In that case, you will have to bring forth your printed out proof or scanned documentation to verify that you are in compliance. That is why complete documentation is so important. These reward companies are notorious for forgetting to log your program completion.
10) If the terms and conditions permit returns, you should return most of the products you ordered. If that is the case, you should do so at the earliest opportunity to halt the monthly subscriptions fees and prevent yourself from going over any free trial period. Be sure to return the product for a credit and refund if that is required. Once again, make sure you document all returns as well. Note that some reward provider programs limit the number of product cancellations you can make - so keep that in mind before you cancel a product. You don't want to violate the terms.
Final Thoughts About These "Free" Gift Reward Programs
Keep in mind that you are responsible for all federal, state, and local taxes for rewards that you receive since the rewards will likely be deemed taxable income. While tax reporting policies vary, many legitimate reward providers will report your gift receipts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to comply with federal and state tax codes. On your own tax return, you will likely have to report the fair market value of the items received.
In my next post about How To Get A Free Laptop, I will review the Gift Reward Center. They run a whole bunch of online websites that you may have seen before but never paid much attention to. They've endured a whole slew of legal and customer complaints, but after changing their terms and policies, they seem to have stayed in business. Currently they are deemed a legitimate business by the Better Business Bureau despite numerous complaints. Their business practice leaves a lot to be desired but so long as they are a legitimate operation, their gift reward system can be beaten.