Is free really free? Or what is the price of free?

I┬ácame across some great examples of ‘free’ services that I would avoid like the plague. “Create free forms online“, “Schedule your appointments online“, and over 10 more of the same kind of ‘free online services’ are listed at the bottom of these pages. Why should you pass up a free service? Look at the site(s) more closely:

  1. Site Design: Seems slapped together without much professional care
  2. Contact Us: No real contact information, except an generic email address: info@…
  3. Header/Footer: No company name shown anywhere
  4. Terms & Conditions: There is an agreement document that outlines the ‘Terms of Service’, but is it valid? With whom do I agree or disagree?
  5. Checking the page source: No comments that give a clue, extremely basic programming
  6. Checking the domain registration: All of these domains are registered to the same company “Centranet On-Line Services Ltd.”, through godaddy.com. All detail information such as address or phone numbers are blocked
  7. Search Google: Google shows no result about Centranet On-Line Services Ltd. A company that offers all these online services and doesn’t have a corporate website? A ghost company!

Think about it. Why would you trust even a small part of your information to any site that offers free (or even paid) services but exists anonymously. What is the purpose of this service? Collecting your information to sell to someone else? How do you know if the service works? Where do you ask for support or complain if something goes wrong? The upshot of this article is: Free is rarely really free. Anonymous websites that don’t give any kind of contact information, and/or a company name should be considered suspicious, treat them the same as spam, ignore them!