32 Comments

  1. clems

    Quite an eye opener.

    I have seen such adverts and on one occasion I was almost caught out but luckily for me, the marketers won’t take Paypal and I too had already resolved not to pay for the shipping cost if the option of paying through PayPal is not available.

    I always knew there must be more to this free stuff than meet the eyes.

    Thanks once again.

    • Kyle

      Well you probably saved yourself much more than the costs of the free book + shipping, in particular if they were able to convince you that you needed the upsells (which are often times in the $1,000’s). You become a victim of their funnel and ultimately it can be really hard to say “no” sometimes if you are receiving abusive and high pressure sales calls.

      Once you give your information (phone #, email, etc), you are giving these unscrupulous marketers access to take advantage of you.

  2. Useful insights Kyle about what to look out for with free ebook shipping offers. Nowadays when I see “free”, I check to make sure it really is free.

    A similar thing happened to me with a 30 day Free Trial Offer. Free shipping was included for the trial product. They take your credit card details promising that if you cancel before the subscription kicks in they won’t bill you.

    I had a nightmare experience, even though I cancelled 15 days into the 30 day trial. In the end, the only way I could stop the repeated billing, on my bank’s advice, was to cancel my credit card and get a new one.

    Lesson learned: If they ask for your credit card details upfront on a free trial, forget it!

    ~Jude

    • Kyle

      There is lots of that going on as well, these free offers are one common place where these marketers are giving you a book for free (well, sort of), and then they are strapping you into a membership fee monthly without you knowing…as you didn’t read the fine print. Then they make it a nightmare to cancel and like you said, you end up either having to cancel your credit card or getting a chargeback.

      This is quite common in the MLM industry with the “auto shipping” type schemes that they institute. The complaints about these being next to impossible to cancel is widespread online if you do some reading, so pretty much the same thing that you experienced here.

  3. Steven

    I don’t know man, I don’t feel like I can get scammed but I’ve spent quite a bit of money online now on products without making very much in return so maybe I’ve been scammed…but I just like to see what’s out there to see how other people live…but I think i’ve come full circle…I believe in myself stronger than ever and I know most of the tricks now and I’ve seen how things are structured.

    I’ve bought some good free plus shipping books before and just now I was checking out another good looking book i know the guy has some good info…they are entry points to the funnel and it was worth it. A lot of people are structuring their business like that right now. They do it to see who is willing to pull out their credit card.

    But in a lot of ways I feel like money in general is a scam especially the way it can be produced or what you can do to earn it isn’t necessary reflective of its worth…its like blood money…even things like seeding comments or interviews can be seen as collaboration like I get why people collaborate now…life is weird because I knew a lot of it was phoney and then you buy into it and see ok this is how its done but i still think its kind of phoney and I want to produce something real and of substance.

    I don’t like some ppl with money talking too much smack because i never chased money at all not until recently now I’m actually doing things for money that will make me money but i feel like i have a mission to achieve and its nothing to do with money. sSme of these ppl are too much they talk like its a luxury… actually i get sick because i got caught up with some of the hype it makes me sick to think about it but I just want to keep it real too many people are delusional about this. Your position doesn’t give you the authority over anything. You’re tripping if you get caught up in your own lies. God is in control.

    That’s my rant….WealthyAffiliate for the win.. I want to get this money God willing and do something worthwhile.

    • Kyle

      Don’t get caught up in the hype. The hype and sensationalization of products/services is there to draw people in. They tend to imagine themselves like these rented gurus driving around their fake cars, showcasing their fake houses, and taking their last $1,000 out of the bank so they can “make it rain’ in front of a camera.

      They are not teaching you how to build a long term, nor an ethical business. They teach you do the same thing they are doing, selling a whole lot of sizzle with very little steak.

      There are absolutely ethical ways of building a business online and that is something that we teach in detail within Wealthy Affiliate, across any niche that you want. The thing is, the most successful business are the most ethical. It is tough to stick around and remain in business (unless you are operate in a very shifty way) if you are ripping people off. Help people as your primary focus in business and you will be in business for a very long time.

  4. Jonathan D. VanSkiver

    Unfortunately its not limited to ebooks. Its plastered all over social media as free money making opportunities, where you watch a ‘free’ video once you simply enter your email address which later gets spammed for “not so great” offers. Moreover Schemes and scams!!

  5. Andrew

    I’m yet to come across one of these free book plus postage offers, but now I’m fully prepared when I do.

    Do you think that some of these “free books” can contain some value, as long as you can resist the upsells?

    Your post has actually reminded me of some retailers that do a similar thing. For example, TV infomercials that offer you a free trial, but all you have to do is pay the postage. More often than not, the postage would actually be more than what it would cost to post. Then, if you don’t like the item you have to send it back at your expense, or pay for the item in full!

    Either way, the retailer would win. Very very sneaky and unethical marketing tactics indeed.

    • Kyle

      I wouldn’t doubt that some of the free books do have some value within them, but they are also going to be “pure pitches” in many cases ahnd contain very little meat. Unlike a book that is on Amazon or in stores that can actually be reviewed by the readership, you would never seen one of these books within this sort of marketplace as they would lack enough value to get a decent review.

      Rather they are a mechanism to get you into their “funnel” so to speak. Once they have your details, they are going to hit you with a number of upsells, promotions, and in many cases, solicit to you until you reach the point where you find yourself blocking phone numbers or making complaints to the FTC about their practices.

    • Jonathan D. VanSkiver

      Very good point. A few years back, I happened to be up way late at night. An infomercial for the new set of “Who Knew” books came on. I don’t even read but… I was sold. The books contained substance and were very useful. HOWEVER, during the order process I couldn’t complete the order until I listened to about 20 other upsell pitches. By the time it was all said and done (45 minutes later) I had accidentally purchased 2 sets of the books. Once they arrived I went to put 1 of the sets on eBay as I only wanted 1 to begin with.

      HERES WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING:

      Upon searching eBay I quickly found that there was only 1 other set listed and the auction (which still had 3 days to go) had jumped to well over 3X what the book were selling for. Holy Crap I thought, here’s a money maker… I quickly listed 20 sets. And posted all 20 sets immedi3. All 20 sets sold for between $80 and $100 per set. I paid $29.99 for the 1rst set and $19.99 for every set I ordered at the same time! Shipping was Free.
      Turns out…. People were very eager to run the bids up to get what they wanted rather than spend 45minutes opting out of 20 more offers. I can’t say that I blame them really.

      Myself? Well lets just say… I keep my eye on the final prize and now, when I have the time and money… I watch for those infomercials.
      That was the week I turned $420 into almost $1700. Not a bad paycheck.

  6. JT

    Hey Kyle,
    thanks for sharing, I have unfortunately fallen for the “shipping” bait myself.
    The way this happened with me was actually through a completely free e-book download on a guru website.
    Sure the download was free, but the book itself lacked any useful substance and was full of sales pitches and other “useful book lists”.
    As a complete newbie at that time I choose the “free” book from the included list, happy that I would only pay for the shipping.
    The cost was a bit high, but I was consoling myself that It was coming from across the world directly to my doorstep.
    Once I actually had the book in my hands, I finally realised my mistake and saw the scam for what it was.
    So that was my (unfortunate) experience and I hope anyone reading this will somehow benefit from it.

    Great post!
    JT

    • Kyle

      Sorry to hear you have fallen for one of these free plus shipping bait offers (as have many). This sounds like it is an experience you learned from and being involved in marketing now, you can appreciate the difference between “slight of hand” unethical marketing and ethical marketing that takes place through the actual “help” of others.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience here JT.

  7. greg smyth

    Kyle,

    Good info on another potential way of taking your hard earned money! I only download free ebooks, no shipping, but even those have heaps of sales ads in them.

    These days, if you give out your email in return for a digital product, you expect up sells.lol When paying shipping for books, you would also expect up sells, but some have no ethics at all.

    • Kyle

      Free ebooks are fine. There is no cost to entry and you can usually just give your email and name and get instant access to it. If the book isn’t good or lacks substance, you can make a decision as to what you can expect down the road from this person (quality/help versus over promotions).

      When you pay for something, that is when I don’t feel there should be surprise costs everywhere. In particular when you take up someone on a free plus shipping book offer and the next thing you know they are selling $5,000 mentoring to you, a mastermind, or expensive recurring program, coaching, or worse yet, trying to push you into a scheme.

  8. Chris

    Hey Kyle,
    While looking over this we’ll put together website I quickly realized this has an amazing amount of thought and quality content involved. A major issue with the internet today is individuals scamming or misleading people into turning out their pockets and handing over their hard earned money

    IF there is one thing everyone should know, it is exactly what you portray in this website.

    Great job, keep up the good work!

    -Chris

    • Kyle

      Most definitely, it has become almost normal to mislead people within the opportunity or “make money” industry and even worse is that it works. People are a lot of the times very desperate and are willing to chase shiny objects and they get sucked into such schemes as the free ebook ones. What started off as being “free” ends up costing them $1,000’s after they get hit with aggressive upsells and solicitations through the phone.

      Tread carefully would be my advice to anyone that runs into offers like these.

  9. Roman

    Hello Kyle,

    All I can say is thank you for the information. I did not know about these “free e-book scams” before. I have been lucky to not having been baited into these scams.

    It sounds similar to telemarketing scams where you have to provide a deposit or pay some type of fee for a “free” grant by the government. These type of offers, including the ones you just mentioned, disgust me. It angers me, really. It is unethical as you disclosed.

    Again, thanks for the info. I hope many other readers will get this info for their knowledge on these practices.

    Sincerely,

    Roman G. Rys, MSW, LCSWA

    • Kyle

      There are definitely many similar variants to the “free + shipping” scams out there, many of theme reside in the telemarketing world, many reside in the retail world, and many are actually through services that some of us have learned to be credible (Publisher Clearing House) where they work on the fringes of what is ethical.

  10. Kenny Lee

    Hi Kyle,

    I’m not aware of this free book scam. But it’s really ridiculous to pay thousands just to ship for a Free book. I would have questioned the reason why the book was not available in Amazon? or Kindle.

    If that book is as good as advertised, it probably has gone digital. Again, I suspect people are gullible at times, and some are just ignorance to the scams aplenty online.

    Kenny.

    • Kyle

      The book is not as good as it is advertised, that is the thing. They are not sold on Amazon because they lack substance and they would quickly get low quality reviews.

      The book is a complete PLOY to get your personal information, which is then used to sell you other stuff. To make more sense, this is what the process looks like with the free plus shipping offers.

      Step 1: Buy the Free Plus Shipping Offer (Usually $5-20 for shipping)
      Step 2: The Book is a Promotion for Other Programs (more expensive ones)
      Step 3: You will get phone calls, emails, or physical mail trying to sell you other stuff (webinars, seminars, high ticket info products, coaching programs, mentoring programs, etc)
      Step 4: If you are one of the people get sucked in, you spend $1,000’s (although you simply wanted a “free” book)

      That is how these companies operate. They don’t care so much about the quality of the content within the book, they care more about what they are going to sell you afterwards.

  11. Emily

    And you know who sells these free books? All of the so-called business, mindset, and lifestyle coaches that get paid by suckering people out of thousands of dollars to listen to them talk in circles….

    • Kyle

      It is those that operate these with no moral compass on helping people, rather people have become a medium for them to generate as much money as possible. They could care less about your situation, they just want to maximize the income they generate off of any given customer.

      And I agree, much of this is about talking in circles and showing people “the life” they could have, people envision it, then they get sucked out of $1,000’s that they often times don’t have, that they are using credit cards to purchase and in many cases, loans!

  12. Nico Collu

    It’s amazing at which lengths marketers will go to get your money often in illegal circumstances.

    I guess there really isn’t anyone to blame but ourselves, the internet go’ers.

    With articles like this, at least we can learn and be wary. Never give our your credit card details without GREAT reason. Make sure a site is secure, has https.

    Even so, think twice before you do it. Most likely, if it is a free book, it might as well be an e-book so the author can save on all the hassle of shipping. Any sane person would do it that way instead!

    That’s my way of seeing it.

    • Kyle

      The problem is exactly as you pointed out, many times these are “illegal” programs that are being promoted on the back end and vicariously, the folks that are getting involved in such schemes are then responsible for taking part in such activities.

      If you are not quite sure what is on the other end of the transaction, then it is not best to take part in it. One of the things that I recommend you do is contact the owner if you are unsure or their support line and if you don’t get a response you are happy with, then you likely don’t want to be involved in such a product (as there are likely some unethical practices going on behind the scenes).

  13. Sylvia

    I once reacted to such an offer about 2 years ago going around on Facebook.

    I am curious but also a cautious person in these “things” and I wrote back why I have to pay for shipping when it is “Free”.

    Well, what can I say I never got an answer and my interest for this “Free Book” immediately died.

    Great article!!!
    Sylvia

    • Kyle

      The reason you have to pay is that you need to cover the shipping costs of the book as well as the cost of the product (with a decent sized print run these books can often times be printed for under $1).

      It can be safe to say that you made the right decision and you dodged much further solicitation, often time shameless.

  14. Michel

    Yes, I see a lot of this going on. The worst is to buy something really cheap and then being bombarded with upsells. This almost makes you think that the product you bought is somehow lacking if you don’t purchase the upsells.

    But sometimes you are not sure whether to give your email away or not when you see a free book offered, because more often than not it will simply be a reward to join somebody’s mailing list.

    I suppose that would work in the same way because then that person that has your address can send you information on what he or she is promoting.

    I don’t mind that, as long as they also send valuable content as well and not just sales letters.

    • Kyle

      This has become a proven business model for a lot of the schemes out there, but what has happened in recent years is that the upsells have moved from being $47 to $5,000. The idea is that it is much easier to rip one person off for a lot of money than it is to try to sell a legitimate product at a lower price. This is the logic instituted.

      If you want a book, buy a book from Amazon.com or your local bookstore. You end up paying less typically than you would by these free book offers, you are not going to be given a book that is a pretty “act of branding” and you are not going to be ruthlessly promoted to.

      Free plus shipping offers….never end up well for the customer.

  15. Gordi D.

    I don’t usually go for stuff like that, but being of “certain age”, I fell for Christie Brinkley’s “amazing” wrinkle cream. Only $5. Well, long story short, it’s one of those negative billing deals. You are automatically signed up for automatic shipments. Cream ended up costing $350. A month! Heck, botox costs less than that, and lasts 3-4 months. Luckily, I was able to cancel simply by calling the 800#, and credit cards do not dispute those charges. Christie is well protected by her high powered lawyers. Never again!! I also don’t like the fact that FB sneaks in these ads that look like a part of your timeline.

    • Kyle

      Yeah, these sorts of free ship offers with all sorts of products were actually quite prevalent on the internet a few years ago across various industries. In your case it was skin care, but there were many scams taking place in the “diet pill” and “acai berry pill” industry that Google actually had to crack down on by removing the ability to promote this sort of thing through Adwords.

      I am just wondering when Facebook is going to start to get some heat from those that have been taken advantage of by these free book plus ship offers. I think it is just a matter of time and these companies and schemers will have to move onto the next idea.

  16. Alex

    Been there done that 🙂

    In 2007 I ordered a “free book” on making money online. Paid the shipping and was bombarded with about 10 up/downsells for different things. However, I was very careful to decline all of them, I also made sure that I wasn’t signing up for a recurring “book club” of some sort.

    However, after a few weeks I started getting calls from marketers trying to sign me up for some $47 video training and $5,000 retreats and everything in between.

    I had to block at least a dozen different phone numbers. Had to report probably 50+ different spam emails and I kept on receiving direct mail for years… I was lucky that I didn’t lose any money but I did waste a lot of time with this.

    Never again.

    • Kyle

      This actually sounds very much par for the course. These free plus shipping book offers have been around for quite some time, but the means of marketing them have changed with the proliferation of Facebook ads.

      It is littered with these sorts of offers and I hate to think how many people “unknowingly” are purchasing these products with the intention of just getting a book…but then falling into the $5,000 retreat trap or the $47 video training, or the $300 recurring membership, or worse, $10,000’s and that are taking loans out to pay for this.

      These offers are a mechanism to capture personal data and just like your experience, they will solicit you until you buy something or have to block a string of 50 numbers to avoid the absolute invasive and overwhelming nuisance they become.

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