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Legit ways for low-income folks to get a free iPad or tablet

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The federal government contracts with organizations and companies to get tablets and iPads to low-income people. Typically, having an EBT card is the qualifier.

These deals have spawned a lot of scammers (big surprise).

In this post, we’ll explain how you can get free or discounted iPads or mobile tablets and how to avoid scams.

How to avoid “Free iPad” scams

Yes, there are lots of ways to get a free iPad, including from government programs and agencies, wireless companies, nonprofits, and schools. 

Legit free iPad, tablets and phone programs will often:

  • Have strict eligibility requirements — typically your Medicaid or EBT card
  • Have limited quantities
  • Require proof of identity

But be careful. If you’re required to share personal information such as your social security number, bank account information, or date of birth in exchange for a free iPad, use caution.

Scammers claim to offer free iPads to steal data or take advantage of individuals who are eager to get one.

Unfortunately there are many free iPad scams online. So, how do you spot a scam? 

A general rule of thumb: If you have to pay money to get an advertised free iPad — even with the promise of having the money returned to you — then it’s not free.

Signs of a “Free iPad” scam:

  • Pop-up ads: Don’t click on flashy ads that pop up when you are online with words like: “Win a new iPad Pro” or “Congratulations you won a free iPad!” 
  • Email addresses you don’t recognize: Be wary of opening emails from unknown senders with the subject line “Free iPad”
  • Website address is spelled differently: If the online offer claims to be from a well-known store like Walmart but instead of taking you to walmart.com, the website URL is either completely or slightly different (i.e. walmart.net, wallmart.com, etc.) 
  • News story about the offer: Some scammers use logos from news outlets to try to add credibility to their offers, but the web address is not the official news source’s web address
  • Misspelled words, poor grammar, or hype language: Be wary of offers that use incorrect spelling, all capital letters, or words like “crazy”
  • Requesting personal information: Beware if the online offer asks for personal or sensitive information, such as your social security number      
  • Requires credit card information: Be careful of “just pay shipping” offers or offers that require you to make a purchase or buy a subscription to get an iPad

Overall, be careful where you click. Sometimes just clicking on a scammer’s ad or link can introduce malware or a virus to your laptop or smartphone. 

Learn about more EBT discounts and freebies.

Check out these Reddit posts from people who came across free iPad scams: 

Legit free tablet programs if you have EBT benefits

If you have EBT, SNAP or Medicaid benefits, you may be eligible to receive free or discounted electronics, including tablets, smartphones, and laptops:

1. Affordable Connectivity Program

If you’re eligible for ACP, you can get a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. You must pay more than $10 but less than $50 toward the device.

With  the ACP, eligible households get a discount of up to $30 per month on home internet service, so you can use your electronic devices at home. If you live on qualifying Tribal lands, you can get  up to $75 off per month1.

You may qualify for the ACP if you meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines2
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Meet the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income internet program
  • Participates in Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program, SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, or a Federal Housing Assistance program

2. Lifeline Program

Lifeline is another way to get free or low-cost electronics. Lifeline-eligible low-income families can sign up for free and discounted phone and free and discounted internet services from participating providers. The program offers up to a $9.25 monthly discount on service or $34.25 per month for those on Tribal lands3.

Eligible families have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in one of the government programs noted above (such as SNAP or Medicaid).

Some wireless providers that work with Lifeline and offer discounted iPads or tablets for about $10:

  • Easy Wireless – 8-inch tablet for $10.99, but tablets options and pricing may vary by state and availability
  • StandUp Wireless – 10-inch tablet for a co-pay of at least $10.01
  • QLink – Tablet for $10.01 and it comes with a free smartphone for eligible customers
  • Cintex Wireless – iPad Mini for a co-pay of $10.01

Learn more about how to get free wifi or a free laptop. There are also programs that help you get a free smartwatch.

3. Public Wireless

Public Wireless works with K-12 school districts and colleges to provide free tablets to students who meet eligibility guidelines. 

Call the United Way’s at 2-1-1 or visit 211.org to find programs in your area.

4. Veterans Affairs iPad program

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) collaborates with Apple to lend iPads to veterans who previously weren’t able to attend telehealth appointments due to a lack of internet or an internet-connected device. 

The iPads have cellular service so that veterans can access virtual health care services even if they don't have internet access.

To determine your eligibility for a free iPad, you will need a VA Digital Divide Consult, which you can schedule by contacting your local VA.

Learn more about free family streaming services and free (legal!) cable.

5. Local government agencies (sometimes)

Some local government agencies offer programs for free or discounted iPads, including free ipads for students. You can start research by looking for “free tablet with EBT near me,” as well as variations on “free tablet with food stamps” and “free tablet with Medicaid” near you.

For example, in 2022, the California Department of Aging4 collaborated with local health and human service agencies to provide free iPads to adults over 60 and those with disabilities who had no devices to access the internet.

For example, the Wayne County Committee for Crippled Children and Adults7 in Wooster, Ohio, gives free iPads to people who are nonverbal or experience development delays that make it hard to communicate without assistive technology.

To find resources near you, contact your local United Way by dialing 2-1-1. 

Schools offering free tablets and iPads

Many K-12 schools offer free tablets to their students for classwork and continued learning at home — especially schools that are in low-income neighborhoods.

For example, Gary Community School Corp. in Gary, In. provides a 10.1-inch tablet and free monthly internet service to all students who attend the school district in the 2022-2023 school year and apply for the tablet.8 The school district receives the USDA Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a meal option for schools in low-income areas.

Public Wireless is working with K-12 and colleges across the nation to provide free tablets to qualified students. For example, the University of Maryland Global Campus is partnered with Public Wireless to provide a 10-inch tablet and 4G service to students who complete the FAFSA and show financial need.9

Some colleges and universities offer free tablets or iPads for students, including:

  • The University of Kentucky: As an Apple Distinguished School, this university is providing an iPad Air, keyboard and Apple Pencil to all first-time undergrads in a degree program to help them level up in learning, graduating and increasing technology skills to help them pursue careers 10
  • Delaware State University: As part of its Digital Student Universe program, all first-year students who graduated high school in May 2018 or later will receive an iPad or Macbook, protective case, smart keyboard, Apple Pencil, and Applecare+11
  • Moravian University: This Apple Distinguished School gives all incoming freshmen receive a Macbook, iPad, and Apple Pencil to encourage the use of technology in education12

To find out if your prospective school offers free iPads, contact the office of the registrar. 

How to get free school supplies

Scholarships for single moms

Bottom line: Free iPads are out there, but you have to know where to look

Free iPads are available for people who need them, but it’s easy to fall for iPad scams.  Stick with reputable sources, including:

  • Government programs like Lifeline and ACP 
  • Government agencies
  • State departments of social service
  • K-12 and postsecondary schools
  • Nonprofits
  • Wireless and internet providers
  • Health insurers 
  • Medicaid

Check out these other resources for low-income families:

Help for single moms: 16+ resources$500 monthly single mom grant
10+ charities that help single mothersGovernment assistance for single moms
Low-income home loansFree toys
Free gift cardsFree Christmas money
Free money for billsFree car repairs
Free home repairsFree baby stuff
Free car seatsFree air conditioner

SOURCES

  1. “Affordable Connectivity Program” 2023. Federal Communications Commission. https://www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers
  2. “HHS Poverty Guidelines for 2023.” January 19, 2023. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. https://aspe.hhs.gov/topics/poverty-economic-mobility/poverty-guidelines
  3. “Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications” 2023. Federal Communications Commission. https://www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers
  4. “Disabled adults and adults 60+ may be eligible for free iPad in Shasta County.” October 17, 2022. KRCR. https://krcrtv.com/news/local/disabled-adults-and-adults-older-than-60-might-be-eligible-for-free-ipad
  5. AT&T. https://www.att.com/buy/tablets/galaxy-tab-a7-lite.html
  6. Verizon. https://www.verizon.com/tablets/apple-ipad-10th-generation/?sku=sku5710011
  7. Wayne County Committee for Crippled Children & Adults. https://wcccca.org/
  8. “Gary Community Schools Offer Students Free tablets, Internet.” September 15, 2023. Government Technology https://www.govtech.com/education/k-12/gary-community-schools-offer-students-free-tablets-internet  
  9. “Public Wireless: No-Cost Tablet & Internet Access For Eligible Students.” University of Maryland Global Campus. https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/finances/financial-aid/public-wireless
  10. “iPad Initiative.” University of Kentucky Smart Campus. https://smartcampus.uky.edu/ipad-initiative
  11. “Digital Student Universe.” Delaware State University. https://www.desu.edu/about/administration/information-technology/digital-student-universe
  12. “Apple Technology at Moravian.” Moravian University. https://www.moravian.edu/academics/apple-technology

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