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10 Out of 10 Did Not Receive Free Laptop
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission revealed the results of an FTC study, concluding that, "On average, 10 out of every 10 Internet users that have clicked on a 'click here for a free laptop' ad did not receive that laptop." The study was based on a random sampling of Internet users across the U.S., all of whom had at some time in the past two years clicked on a "free laptop" ad.

"It's been four months now, I don't think it's coming."
-- Maggie "Magpie" Haley, of her 'free laptop'
"The results are disappointing, but not really surprising," said HP spokesman Jonas Tartikoff. HP laptops are among those that ads claim will be provided to users as a result of clicking their ad. "Our company provides a full range of machines, from the high-end, full-featured to the bargain-oriented starters. But none of our products -- or that of our competitors -- are low-cost enough to justify giving them away in exchange for a click."

Maggie "Magpie" Haley was "truly hurt, shocked" when the weeks passed without her laptop arriving. "The ad said click, so I clicked," she recalls, "The page came up, it was a catalog of electronic stuff. There were some popups, too. I looked them over real close, but I never saw where I was supposed to enter my address so they could ship it to me. I assumed they knew who I was from my cookies or chips or something, so I just marked my calendar and waited. It's been four months now, I don't think it's coming."

Majoras says that Haley's story is the norm. "These ads are clearly fraudulent, it's similar to a bait-and-switch, but without the 'switch'. We're looking into how to shut them down, but the few we've traced lead us back to some unemployed guy living with his mother, trying to drive traffic to his baseball card auction, or some other nonsense. We shut him down, and there's 5,000 more like him coming online. It's not a flood, it's a rainstorm."

While no further study is planned, the FTC report suggests that free iPods, free DVD players, and other items of value are probably not likely to be delivered, either. The entire report is available on the FTC web site.
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