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[Guide] The 'Free Today' Trap: How Online Sellers Dupe Unsuspecting Shoppers

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The internet offers countless opportunities for genuine deals and discounts. However, not all that glitters is gold. Among the many legitimate deals online are schemes designed to lure in unsuspecting customers. One such deceptive practice is the "Free Today" scam, which promises high-value products for free but conceals the real costs elsewhere.

How The Scam Works

Promotion of "Free" Products: Sellers advertise products as being available for free for a limited time, playing on the principle that people are naturally attracted to the idea of getting something for nothing.

Sense of Urgency: These scams typically employ tactics to create a sense of urgency, like "Limited Stock" or "Offer Ends Today", compelling the consumer to act fast without proper consideration.

Hidden Costs in Shipping: The catch? While the product might be listed as free, the shipping costs are inflated way above the market average. The profit made from these exorbitant shipping fees compensates for the product's cost, ensuring the seller's profits.

When browsing online, several telltale signs indicate a "Free Today" scam. Firstly, offers that seem too good to be true should immediately raise suspicion. For example, high-value items or those that are trending are often dangled as bait. Many times, these "free" products can be found at significantly low prices on platforms like AliExpress. Legitimate businesses thrive by selling products or services, and their profit avenues are transparent. If you come across a company regularly giving away products for "free," it begs the question: How do they sustain their operations? Another sign to be wary of is the customer reviews section. These scam sites often have sparse feedback, but if they do, you might notice a myriad of negative comments related to shipping costs, the quality of the product, or prolonged delivery times.

The Real Costs

While the product's face value is marketed as "free," there are often hidden costs that consumers should be wary of. The primary method these scams profit is through inflated shipping fees. For instance, if a product, when searched elsewhere, costs $5 (including shipping), on these scam sites, the product might be "free" but comes with a shipping fee of $15 or even more. This exaggerated shipping cost is where they make their money. However, the woes for the consumer don't end there. Often, the products that finally arrive are a shadow of their advertised self, lacking in quality and not matching the description or images. Additionally, these products, typically sourced from overseas sellers in Asia, have incredibly long shipping times. And if you're thinking of returning such a product, think again. Most victims find it almost impossible to return items and secure a refund, especially since they've only "paid" for the shipping.

Protecting Yourself

Protecting oneself from these scams is of utmost importance. Before making a purchase, always do your due diligence. Research the website thoroughly, looking for reviews and its reputation on platforms such as Trustpilot or the Better Business Bureau. Being aware of average shipping costs is another safeguard; if a site's shipping seems disproportionately high, it's a clear red flag. Always read the fine print. Delving into the terms and conditions, especially those related to shipping, returns, and refunds, can offer clarity on the site's legitimacy. Lastly, when it comes to payment, opt for secure methods that provide buyer protection. Credit cards or platforms like PayPal are safer choices. Avoid methods like wire transfers or direct money sending, as these often don't offer any form of buyer protection.


The promise of getting something for "free" is undoubtedly enticing, but it's imperative to tread with caution. By understanding the mechanisms behind the "Free Today" scam, consumers can make informed decisions, steering clear of potential pitfalls. Remember, if an online deal appears too good to be true, it likely is. Always trust your instincts and do your research.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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That "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." I know I've been intrigued with a product & the sales pitch from somebody. Then you have to shake your head to clear it, take that step back, & do your research. I go to Better Business Bureau quite often but I'm going to keep for reference Trust Pilot as well.

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  • 2 months later...

It was instilled in me by my mentor right from childhood that nothing good comes for free. This is why it's very difficult for me to be enticed with the offer of free products. I'm not a beggar, I can afford what I want to buy. If a product doesn't give me what I want, no matter the kind of promo and offers they have on it, I would never be interested in buying it. Better Business Bureau and Trust Pilot have always been helpful in getting reviews that I can trust. 

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