Here's how it works. You go to a web site that sort of acts like a home base. This is the prize web site. They are the ones who are going to send you the "free" merchandise. What they do is gather up a list of other web sites that pay out money for taking surveys and signing up for free trials. Many of the offers are free. Some of the offers require a credit card. Others require you to install software that may or not not contain adware, spyware or terrorists.

When you complete the survey or sign up for the free trial, the survey site credits, or pays, the prize site which in turn gives you points, which is really just your cut of the money for taking the survey in the first place. You then use these points to "claim your prize", which really means you are just buying the thing from them with the money you earned taking the surveys, minus their cut. If something costs 20 points for you to redeem that means it probably cost $20 retail.

Your first instinct, and rightfully so, is to ignore these free stuff sites that promise to make all of your dreams come true and brush them off as a big scam. Good, it shows you've been paying attention all these years.

Help! I gave my phone number to a spam site and I'm getting, gasp, spam!

But people, especially goons, have a funny way of wanting to convince themselves to "bite", and once they see all their forums friends getting rich signing up for free trials and spending the next forty years of their lives trying to cancel them they will eventually succumb to the dream of unlimited Xbox Live Marketplace points and dive on in. I mean, if my forums buddy ssj_goku69 is ass deep in Microsoft Fun Money, why not me?!

Believe it or not, these sites are technically not scams. If you actually do what they say and leave yourself open to all the spam, junk mail, and telemarketers you can handle, you might actually receive whatever insignificant item you were looking for. But it's not going to be easy.

One of the many problems with these sites is that they are incredibly unreliable and don't always credit the prize site which in turn does not credit you your points. This has to do with the way they track you. They use cookies and something called a pixel tracker embedded in each page, which lets the survey site know that you completed an offer and who to pay.

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