Lots of companies’ marketing plans involve allowing people to take their products on test runs so they can gather information in order to decide on what to tweak – and what to leave – when it comes to those items (which can be anywhere in the production line from the concept stage to already launched).

It’s a great service not only for manufacturers who get insider-info and advice on altering their products and marketing campaigns – it’s also great for the testers, since many times compensation comes in the form of money or free equipment.

There is, however, a huge caveat here. While a handful of companies sometimes do genuinely thank consumers for testing their products by allowing they to keep those items free of charge, nowadays there seems to be a lot more scam artists out there, who take advantage on new product launches – and certainly those people who could use the extra cash or cannot afford to purchase the latest tech toy to hit the market.

In fact, a good rule of thumb when to comes to filtering out the swindlers from the honest companies is this: most companies simply do not charge consumers to test their products – rather, they view it as an out-and-out right for customers to be able to test out their goods before deciding on a purchase.

Recently, there has circulated a big scam that has duped quite a lot of consumers eager to get their hands on the new Apple iPad3. The trick came in the form of a text, which read: “Apple is looking for people to Test & Keep the New iPad3! But only the 1st 1000 users that goto http://theipad3.mobi and enter code BETA will Receive it!”

If you received this text and fell for it, you may be wondering how to avoid being hoodwinked in the future. Well, here are a few key element to keep and eye out for when discerning a real offer from a fake one:

1. Accurate grammar and spelling. Do you really think a company as prestigious as Apple would transmit a text ridden with poor grammar? (for example in this text message, the words “test” and “keep’ are inappropriately capitalized, and the word “go and to” are combined into one word – which is not a word. Not to mention, the iPad is incorrectly referred to as the “New iPad 3”, implying that that is the name of the product. In actuality, the text should have referred to the device as simply “the new iPad”.
2. Suspicious web addresses. Shady URL’s are a big red flag – such as the one included in this text message, which does not even include the word Apple”, “Mac” – or anything related to the company.

Besides playing Columbo when it comes to deciphering good offers from downright rip-offs, don’t forget, the truth is always a call away. Never hesitate to call the company from which the offer appears to be from in order to validate it! You’ll save yourself plenty of time, energy and invasion of your rights as an honest consumer.

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