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Coca Cola Survey Phishing Scam

Outline
Email purporting to be from Coca Cola claims that the recipient can receive $150 by following a link and filling out a short online survey.



Brief Analysis
The message is not from Coca Cola and the recipient will not receive money for participating. The email is a phishing scam designed to steal credit card and other personal information. Those who follow the link and fill in the "survey" will be asked to submit identity and credit card details, ostensibly so that the survey payment can be transferred to their account. However, all information submitted on the bogus website will be collected by scammers and used for credit card fraud and identity theft.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

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Last updated: 5th January 2011
First published: 5th January 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: ***Cola Survey; Happy New Year***

You have been selected to participate in a public opinion poll conducted by Coca Cola, a non-partisan polling organization.

The poll is about current events at the national level and your views about them. It is short and should take you only 5-7 minutes to complete. All of your answers will be kept strictly confidential and will be used only for legitimate research purposes.

To take the poll, click on this link:
[Link to bogus website removed]

Each person taking the poll will win $150
Thank you for your participation!

Sincerely,
Survey Manager




Detailed Analysis
According to this email, the "lucky" recipient has been selected to participate in a public opinion poll conducted by Coca Cola. The message claims that each person who participates in the survey will receive $150 for his or her trouble. The recipient is urged to click a link in the message in order to take the poll.

However, the message is not from Coca Cola and the promise of $150 for poll participants is simply the bait used to entice recipients into following the link. In fact, the message is a phishing scam designed to steal credit card details and other personal information.

Those who fall for the ruse and follow the link will be taken to a crudely rendered website garishly decorated with Coca Cola graphics. Once there, they will be asked to fill in a very brief one-page survey pertaining to their consumption of Coca Cola products. After they click the "Submit" button on the bogus survey page, they will then be directed to a second page that asks them to provide sensitive personal information and credit card details. The page informs victims that the information is required to allow transfer of the poll participation payment. A screenshot of the bogus web form is displayed below:

Bogus Coca Cola Survey Form

All information submitted on the bogus form can be collected by Internet criminals and used to commit credit card fraud and identity theft.

As such scams go, this example is actually rather crude. Perhaps because the scammers responsible have used an earlier scam attempt as a template, the scam email rather bizarrely refers to Coca Cola as a "non-partisan polling organization". Moreover, the scam email claims that the poll questions will be about "current events at the national level" when the questions in the bogus poll are actually related solely to Coke products. And, while the email promises $150, the bogus website instead sets the payment at 150.

Scammers regular use fake surveys to steal personal and financial information from Internet users. In 2009, scammers claimed that Australian McDonald's customers could receive $50 just for filling out a short "Customer Satisfaction Survey". As in this example, the scammers used a bogus web form to steal credit card information from people who were tricked into participating. More generic versions that do not name a particular company have also been distributed over the last few years. These versions bill themselves as "quick and easy surveys" and again promise recipients quite sizable payments for participating. These generic versions are also designed to steal credit card details via a fake survey form.

Internet users should be very wary of any messages that promise a payment for filling out a short survey. Companies may certainly conduct customer surveys and may even reward participants by entering them into a prize draw or offering free or discounted products. In some cases, they may even pay customers who participate in in-depth surveys or organized focus groups. However, they are extremely unlikely to pay such a substantial fee for filling out a small and insignificant survey. Nor would any ethical company resort to sending out unsolicited bulk emails in order to entice consumers to participate.

If you receive one of these bogus survey messages, do not participate as instructed. Do not click on any links in the messages or open any attachments that they may contain.

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References
McDonald's Survey Phishing Scam Email
Quick And Easy Survey Phishing Scam



Last updated: 5th January 2011
First published: 5th January 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer