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Contact 6: Are “free” offers really free?

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MILWAUKEE -- We all want something for free, and there are plenty of offers - especially on the internet! Contact 6 investigates these "free" offers, to discover whether there is actually a hidden price.

Like many of us, Janine Sweeney just wanted to cut costs, so she went online, looking for good deals, and found one from AT&T. "Phone service for $14.99 a month, and internet for $19.99 a month, with free installation. I found that online, and that sounded great!" Sweeney said.

When the bill came, Sweeney was charged $100 for the so-called "free" installation. Sweeney says AT&T told her the installation is offset by a $100 Visa gift card that would be sent to her. However, six months later, Sweeney says she was told she was ineligible for the Visa gift card because she had to apply through the Rewards Center within 120 days of signing up for the service. "They kind of give you this glorious deal, and you sign up for it, and it's totally something different," Sweeney said.

AT&T disagrees with Sweeney's comment, telling Contact 6: "Customers find rebate cards - the Visa card Janine talked about, to be a simple, secure and convenient way to save money. In this particular instance, an unrelated billing error delayed the process, and we apologize for that."

Free stuff is everywhere on the internet - not only on Facebook! Just Google the word "free" and your options are endless!

There are hundreds of sites offering free iPads. One site asks you to first, pick your color. Then, enter your email address and click "claim now." Then, the site asks for your full name, address and phone number. Then - a five minute survey. Then, you're prompted to install advertising software, and take more surveys, before signing up and paying for special offers. So is this really free?

Ran Hoth runs the local branch of the Better Business Bureau, and routinely receives complaints about what are described as "free" offers. "Unfortunately, free is not always free. If you read the details, it may say you have a chance to win a free product, or a free service, but there's not a guarantee. We want you to register, or become a member, and then there will be a follow up," Hoth said.

Contact 6 says you should always remember to read the fine print! Read the terms and conditions, no matter how long or boring it may be. Know what you are signing up for before you hand over your personal information. If you think you're getting the run-around, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, or Contact 6.

That's what Sweeney did, and as soon as Contact 6 picked up the phone, AT&T made the right call. "It wasn't more than an hour or two later that AT&T called and said 'hey, we want to help you!'" Sweeney said.

Sweeney never did get that rebate card, but with Contact 6's help, she was reimbursed the full $100 for the installation. Sweeney says next time she sees a "free" offer, she'll be careful where she clicks!

CLICK HERE to file a complaint with FOX6's Contact 6.