Summary: Email claims that Shell Australia is offering motorists up to $150 worth of free fuel during September 2008 via a printable coupon (Full commentary below).
Example:(Submitted, September 2008)
Subject: Free FUEL Coupon from Shell
National Launch: Shell Free Fuel Offer
NO catch No Gimmicks No other purchase necessary this is a genuine offer to the Australian motoring Public.
This offer is Availible Australia Wide starting 6am Saturday 13th September till Midnight 20th September 2008
You can only use it once per vehical registration... Visit the Below Web site and claim your 'Free' Fuel Coupon,
which will entitle the bearer to one (1) FULL tank yes FULL tank of any of shell petroleum products OR to a maximum of $150.00AU.
This offer is Shell Australias way of showing we care for this country and our valued customers, coupons may be redeemed at any shell service station outlet.
So go to the web site below PRINT off a Coupon for each vehical you own enter the vehical details and come get your FREE Fuel it's that Simple..
FREE Fuel Coupon from Shell Australia
According to this email, the Australian branch of oil company Shell is offering motorists up to $150.00 worth of fuel or products between 13th and 20th September 2008. The email instructs recipients to click a link in order to visit a website where they can print a copy of a coupon that will allow them to redeem the offer. However, the message is a hoax and Shell Australia has made no such offer. Shell Australia has published the following statement on its website denying the claims in the email:
It has come to Shell's attention that an email is circulating offering free fuel at Shell-branded service stations in Australia.
This email is a hoax and is not a genuine offer.
It has not been sent by Shell and we advise motorists to ignore the email.
Shell regrets any inconvenience caused as a result of this hoax.
It seems that the message is simply a prank perpetrated by persons unknown. Clicking the link in the email opens a webpage that flashes the message "You are an Idiot", on the screen as depicted in the following screenshot:
At the time of writing, I could see nothing overtly malicious about the webpage other than the insulting comment regarding the visitor's level of intelligence. The hoax is seemingly a classic "gotcha" joke similar to a number of others such as the Driver's Licence on the Internet prank.
That said, Internet users should always be very cautious of clicking on links in unsolicited emails. In many cases, such links will open bogus websites that can download malware or fool users into providing sensitive personal and financial information. Criminals often use enticing cover stories such as free offers in order to entice recipients into opening malicious websites or email attachments.
In general, it is wise to be skeptical of any "free giveaway" offers that circulate via email. While a few may actually be legitimate, many will just be foolish hoaxes like this "free fuel" email and at least some will be deliberate scams as noted above.