Secrets to getting free stuff online

If you think there is no such thing as a free lunch, think again. There are many products you can get online without having to pay one cent.

Our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine have found some of the best freebies -- everything from cosmetics to pet food -- in their Shop Smart monthly magazine.

Their top choices (see below for direct links):

  • Hey it's Free!
  • Freeflys
  • Hunt4Freebies
  • ICraveFreebies
  • PINCHme
  • SweetFreeStuff

The site Hey it's Free! features free items such as Beneful dog food.

Other stuff that ShopSmart found for free included Gevalia Espresso coffee fixings, Emergen-C Vitamins, all kinds of beauty products and even free downloadable movies to keep the family entertained.

Consumer Reportssays ShopSmart has many tips on how to get tons of free stuff.

"The first thing to do is look at websites that aggregate free offers. We especially liked Freeflys . We got more free stuff from there than any other website," said Jody Rohlenat.

Some other aggregator sites worth checking out are: Hunt4Freebies , ICraveFreebies , PINCHme and SweetFreeStuff -- that's where ShopSmart got the free movie.

ShopSmart was able to order more than 50 items in a few hours of online searching.

But it warns of some potential pitfalls.

Potential Problem #1: No-Shows

No-shows were a problem.

About half the freebies had not arrived 10 weeks after they'd been ordered.

Potential Problem #2: Email Spam

Another problem was a flood of email marketing pitches clogging your inbox.

Consumer Reports says to set up a separate email address just for freebie shopping.

Potential Problem #3: Getting Charged

Another tip: when shopping for freebies, keep your credit card in your wallet.

"Shipping should be free, so there is no reason to give your credit card information. If they ask you to give your card number, don't do it," said Rohlena.

If you have to use your credit card to get something free or to try out a trial size product, you might be signing up for automatic payment withdrawals from your credit card that last at least a year, unless you cancel the deal within 30 days.

So make sure you read the fine print on the paperwork that comes with the product so you don't waste your money.

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