Since the beginning of the year, survey scammers have mounted a veritable onslaught against Facebook and WhatsApp users from the UK.
The lure comes in the form of a fake free gift card or voucher from supermarkets and retailers like Iceland, Primark, Sainsbury, Mark & Spencer, offers for which potential victims get from a friend or contact via the social network and the messaging service:
Users who fall for the scheme are asked to send the offer to 5, 10 or more of their friends. If only one of those falls for it – and someone always does – the malicious cycle continues.
In order to get the offered gift card of voucher, users are required to share their name, address, email address, and phone number, and to fill out a number of online surveys. If the victim is accessing the survey pages via their mobile phones, they can occasionally also be asked to download a few apps.
The scammers get paid for each completed survey and downloaded app, but the victims get nothing.
“When it comes to freebies, special deals and other innocent-sounding web offers, especially when they are apparently recommended by your friends, it’s easy to fall into the ‘no harm in taking a look’ trap. After all, this scam doesn’t actually try to trigger any exploits to implant malware on your phone, or trick you into installing malware, so it’s easy to think of it as mostly harmless,” notes Sophos’ Paul Ducklin.
“But it’s a scam nevertheless, and even if all you do is to take a look, you’re taking part in something with potentially harmful side-effects on the community around you, from bombarding your friends with unwanted messages to helping crooks to earn affiliate revenues fraudulently.”