7 On Your Side: Fabulous Freebies

IPods, computers, even designer handbags - all being given away...yes, given away...on the Internet! It's taking off on sites like www.freeflatscreens.com and www.freeipods.com. Or, if Prada, Coach or Luis Vuitton is more your thing, check out www.LuxuryFree.com . While you pay zip, the hottest bags are worth much more.

"They average anywhere from $495 up to $550," says Huy Hong of LuxuryFree.com.

Here's how it works. Say you want a free iPod, you register on freeipods.com then pick from a long list of products and services you're willing to purchase or try out.

"AOL, Blockbuster's new online DVD rental membership, here's a Citi Platinum Select card," says Peter Martin of Gratis Internet.

Then, get five friends to sign up for the any of the services offered, and you've got yourself a free iPod. The more valuable the giveaway, the more people you have to recruit. It takes eight friends to get a flat screen. Gratis Internet operates more than a dozen of these marketing sites and says business is booming.

"We have tens of thousands of people actually join, and we've actually given away over three and a half million dollars worth of iPods," says Martin.

Erica Davis was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a try. She signed up for an online movie rental service, got her friends to sign up too, and bingo she got her iPod.

"It was definitely worth it!," says Davis.

But not everyone is that lucky. In fact, complaint sites like ripoffreport.com are filled with warnings from people who say they've been conned by different freebie sites. "

There's always some sort of string attached," says Susan Grant is with the National Consumers League. She says some sites make you jump through hoops and spend a lot on services to qualify for the "free" gift. And she says while most sites are legit you have to be careful.

"A web site could be set up simply to collect people's personal information. It's also possible that you could agree to buy something and never get the free product," says Grant.

So, before you head into a freebie frenzy, Grant says check out a site's privacy policy and make sure it won't sell your personal information to other marketers. Also, search for satisfied customers.

"If it's not a company that you know and trust, you have to proceed with caution."

Erica did and she says it's really paid off. She's now working towards a desktop PC! Her advice to other web surfers is "It's not super easy, but it's not difficult at all and -- if they want stuff like cameras, purses, PC's -- everything's out there."

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com