Ask a Geek: Sree Sreenivasan

Q: Are those Web sites offering free iPods

A: As my mama once told me, there´s no such thing as a completely free iPod. But in this case, she may have been wrong.

Many of the sites in question--FreeiPods.com, FreePSPs.com, FreeDesktopPCs.com, FreeFlatScreens.com-come from one company, Gratis Network, which has earned a reputation as being fairly legit by actually giving away thousands of free items. So what´s the catch? In order to receive your item, you have to sign up for one of several marketing offers on the site, such as applying for a credit card or joining a CD club. Some of the offers cost nothing up front; you just have to remember to cancel before the trial period is up (which, depending on the company, is not always an easy task). The hoops don´t end there: You´ll have to
convince a number of friends or family members to also sign up for one of the marketing offers. The more expensive the item, the more people you´ll need. Gratis makes its money off commissions for these referrals.

To avoid hassling friends, a number of people have found creative ways to scare up the necessary referrals. Many post requests on their blogs, while others go to so-called conga lines--sites where strangers help one another out. (These sites are constantly coming and going, so just Google â€conga line.â€) Beware that whatever e-mail address you use to sign up for the offer is going to get spammed like crazy, so create a separate account and close it down once your freebie arrives.