Jan 6, 2015 · 2 minutes

Silicon Valley isn't as fond of giving away free products as it likes to pretend.

Fusion reports that companies hoping to use their customers as almost-free marketers are regretting their decision to offer referral incentives, such as $20 service credits, now that many consumers have begun to work the system to their advantage.

These savvy customers are said to have cheated promotions offering free Uber and AirBnB services by creating multiple accounts under different email addresses, sharing promotional codes with hundreds of other people, and posting codes to public websites.

Companies like Uber and Airbnb have updated their promotion policies and cracked down on the most egregious offenders, like the startup employee who earned thousands of dollars in Uber credits after posting his promo code online.

It's an ouroboros of exploitation. Tech companies want to take advantage of consumer networks to help grow their brand awareness, and many of those consumers want to exploit these offerings for their own benefit. It's perfect.

It's not likely to end any time soon, either. Even though companies like Uber and Airbnb are cracking down on promo code abuses, they're still offering rewards to their customers for new referrals, and many other startup companies rely on the same trick to grow their user bases. And those customers also plan to take advantage of the system for as long possible.

Here's what one not-quite-scammer -- the one who racked up tens of thousands of dollars worth of Uber credits by posting his code online -- reportedly told Fusion:

Blake Jareds now wishes he’d changed the email address associated with his Uber account and changed his promo code in order to 'hide out' in the Uber system and not lose his credits. 'I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time,' he says. 'I would try again with a younger type company that’s not a household name yet, like Uber was when I first started this. But I would approach the company first and make sure they’re okay with what I’m doing.'

Silicon Valley's reliance on "viral" networks and means the offer of credits to new users -- and existing users who refer their friends -- isn't going to end any time soon, no matter how much expensive abuses like those Fusion documented become.

And, sure as shit, these opportunists aren't going to stop gaming the system. Both sides are exploiting the other, and they're going to keep doing so until the benefits no longer outweigh the costs, like a perpetual motion machine fueled by exploitation and greed.