ARTICLES FOR WEBMASTERS
How Web Sites Can Afford to Give Away iPods, Laptops and Gift Cards
We’ve all seen the online ads: sign up, click on some links, refer a
few friends and earn an expensive item. Sometimes it’s an iPod. Other
times, you’re earning a new video-game console. There are also laptops,
big-screen TVs and high-dollar gift cards available (among other
things) depending on which site you visit.
You don’t have to pay for the privilege, either. Signup is free – and
you don’t even have to enter a credit card number. Just sign up and
start earning those expensive electronics.
This sounds like a ridiculous, obvious scam, but it’s not. Many
Internet users have in fact earned or won their electronics from these
sites. Some users upload photos of the delivery truck pulling up at
their houses. Others post photos of their rewards. Another
trust-builder is the fact that journalists have investigated some of
these sites – and reported that the goods really do arrive as promised.
The truth is that many “giveaway sites” really do ship the items they
claim to have in stock. You will receive your iPod, laptop computer or
whatever else you signed up to earn. But how can these Web sites afford
to give away items for free? Where do the companies get the money to do
this? Did they legally acquire the iPods, computers, gift cards and
other prizes? Are the items authentic or fake?
These are all good questions. Savvy consumers and Internet users should
ask these things before signing up for any offers or sites. It’s the
smart thing to do, after all. Here’s how the companies can afford to
give away the merchandise – and how you can earn brand-new stuff.
When you sign up, you have to give valid addresses (e-mail and snail
mail) and a telephone number, among other things. Make sure that all of
your information is legitimate: otherwise, you could have problems
earning your free stuff.
Once you’re signed up with the site, you have the chance to refer your
friends. Some sites require you to refer a certain number of people:
otherwise, you don’t get your stuff. Others make this part optional.
Either way, referring friends will only help you earn your rewards. And
because some sites allow you to earn more than one item, you can’t hurt
yourself by referring too many people. Just make sure that you don’t
spam or flood the Internet with unwanted messages: it’s annoying and,
in some cases, can cost you your rewards.
Most sites work on a points system. An iPod, for example, could be
worth two thousand points. That seems like a lot, but many sites will
give you points just for joining. So in reality, you don’t have to earn
all two thousand points: a couple of hundred or more are already
credited to your account.
You earn the overwhelming majority of your points by completing offers.
The giveaway site has hundreds, or even thousands, of links to
advertisers: click on the links and complete the surveys, buy the
merchandise, register for free newsletters, et cetera.
Example: You might receive one point for clicking on a link to a record
club. But if you sign up for the club, you’ll earn more points –
thirty, forty or more depending on which site you’re using to earn your
Another example: A pharmaceutical company might want you to fill in a
form (name, address, et cetera – standard information) and print a
coupon for a free trial of medicine. You don’t have to actually redeem
the coupon to earn your points, though.
Some of the offers are free. The advertisers want you on their mailing
lists so that they can send you e-mails and, in some cases, sell your
information to other sites for the same purpose. That’s not a big deal,
though, if you use a Web-based e-mail account for these offers. Just
make sure that it’s not your “regular” address. You should use a real
account, though, instead of making up an e-mail address: if you put in
fake information, the giveaway site cannot (and will not) verify that
you really signed up for the offers.
Other offers cost money. These, of course, are worth more points. If
you actually want the products – and are not already registered with
the sites that offer them – you might be able to earn enough points for
your reward in just a few weeks. If you decide to make a purchase, it’s
a good idea to use a “disposable” credit card. That way, if your
personal information is compromised, it’s not a big deal: the card
isn’t associated with your bank account.
You can also sign up for free trials. Many of these require a
credit-card number or bank account. This is another reason to use a
“disposable” card. It’s a valid and fair way to earn the points without
compromising your private data.
Eventually you’ll earn enough points for your item. When that happens,
you redeem the points and wait for the delivery truck or mail carrier
to bring your merchandise to your door. This can take a few weeks or
longer, though. Be sure that you read the estimated delivery time
before you redeem.
Because the advertisers pay the site tons and tons of cash for the
promotion, the site can afford to give away merchandise. You’re
basically volunteering to view the ads and sign up for the offers in
exchange for your stuff. This works out well because everybody is
happy. The site earns money. The advertisers increase their mailing
lists, customer databases or sales. And you get free stuff.
Basically, you are volunteering to be part of the target audience. The
advertisers know that, because you must view the ads or sign up for
their offers to earn the points, you will pay attention to their
advertisements. This is a more targeted advertising tactic than, for
example, placing an ad banner at the top of a Web site.