There are two kinds of "100% free ringtones..." There are genuinely free ringtones and there are "free" ringtones that keep charging you: ringtones that are advertised as free, but are not free at all. The problem is so pressing that, in 2009, the European union conducted a crackdown on free ringtone scams and found misleading advertising cases in 301 ringtone (or wallpaper and other mobile services) web sites.
The European Union has spotted three kinds of approaches used by misleading sites: "Failure to provide complete trader information; and misleading advertising, in particular, advertising ringtones as "free" where the consumer is in fact tied into a paying subscription." The "paying subscription" scam is by far the most widespread problem.
Key in your phone number and they gotcha!
The offer looks innocent and drop dead simple: Just key in your phone number and they will send you a free ringtone. Nothing to lose, you might think? But what you can lose lies in the fine print or that check box you casually forgot to fully read before hitting the send button because you were so excited about getting that Lady Gaga tune on your brand new handset. Yet, the fine print irremediably includes gotcha formulas like: "I agree to the terms and conditions and I want to receive 10 ringtones per month for only $10/mth paid subscription."
"Mth?," "Subscription?" Oh, a subscription at $10 per month, they mean? Yes they do. It's unbeknown to most, but your mobile service provider can act almost like a credit card company and charge you for services you subscribe to by simply giving your phone number. Think there will be a step #2 and they will have to ask for your credit card number, your agreement? Think again! Your number and this innocent-looking check box is all they need to start draining your pockets at the rate of $10 per month. Press that button and you're in.
Now that you know the trick, if you still want to subscribe to a ringtone plan, you might be able to spot the honest sites as those who clearly indicate how to cancel and are upfront about their offer being a recurring, monthly subscription. But we think you shouldn't do that. There are much easier ways to get free... really free ringtones.
100% free ringtones are easy! Do it yourself!
In most cases, ringtones can be created directly on your phone. Most modern cell phones - especially feature phones or smartphones such as Android or iPhone models - allow you to just record a sound clip, save it and use it as a free ringtone, period. It couldn't be simpler and we actually offer a step-by-step 100% free ringtone creation guide here.
On less advanced cell phones, you still have options. You can use MP3 files or MIDI files, such as the free ringtones created by Martin Plante and available here. Older cell phones sometimes include a "melody composer" that lets you key in a ringtone using a special built-in application. For specific instructions for your cell phone, consult that handy guide for most phones launched after 2008.