If you’re like most people, you love the idea of getting something for nothing — or at least getting a great deal on a product you consider useful.

But consumer advocates are out with a warning: If something seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t on the level.

According to Melissa Companick, the president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of New Jersey, some advertisers will cross the line and try to get you to buy a product or service by offering something that’s billed as free, but in reality may not be at all.

She said if you’re offered any kind of a free gift but it’s tied to getting a particular test or service, then “that’s not a transparent type of advertisement.”

“Anytime you have a free offer, you need to clearly and conspicuously disclose any conditions that go along with that," she said.

So if something is presented to consumers as being free, “they can’t use an asterisk and then put everything in fine print. If there is an asterisk, make sure you find the asterisk and what those terms and conditions are."

A message that says "we’ve been trying to reach you" is almost always a red flag, she said.

“They’re trying to create a sense of urgency [...] and we would consider that deceptive advertising.”

Her advice?

“Be a little skeptical. You don’t have to be paranoid about it, but definitely take it with a grain of salt. And certainly, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Companick said if you have a question about any offer or a product or a pitch, contact the Better Business Bureau.

“We have an entire advertising review program, so if we review something that is not in compliance with our code of advertising, we will reach out to the business and ask them to modify it or discontinue it entirely.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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