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Gmail 'Account Update' Survey Scam Email

Outline
Message purporting to be from Gmail claims that Gmail is implementing a new security system and account holders must therefore follow a link to "enrol" for the account enhancement.

Online Scam

© Depositphotos.com/ginasanders



Brief Analysis
The message is not from Gmail. It is a scam designed to trick people into participating in suspect online surveys.

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Example

Subject: Please Update Your Gmail Account!

Hi Gmail User,

Your Security is our concern

This message is sent to you because you registered your yahoo email, ********@yahoo.******* (User ID with-held for security purposes) as an alternate email when registering your Gmail account. The Gmail Team is extending an extra level of security as a necessary upgrade to all Gmail customers. This is due to the recent fraudulent activities and identity thefts being experienced by Gmail users.

To enhance the security of your Google account(s) and avoid unwanted or fraudulent access to your email account with us please visit the link below.

Please log on to:[Link removed]

N/B: This is an important service message, please do not ignore.

If your browser does not support the G-mail secure link above , please visit [Link removed] and go to the account enhancement section to enroll.

Sincerely,

The Google Accounts team

This email can't receive replies. For more info, visit the Google Accounts Secure Center.

Gmail Survey Scam


Detailed Analysis


According to this message, which purports to be from Gmail, a new and enhanced security system is being implemented for Gmail account holders.  The message urges users to click a link to enrol in the supposed account enhancement. It warns that the email is an important service message and should not be ignored.

However, the email is not from Google. At first take, the message looks like a typical email phishing scam designed to steal account login details. And it certainly is a scam. However, the goals of these fraudsters are a little different to that of the average phisher.

Links in the scam message open a website that claims that visitors have been selected for a chance to win an expensive prize. Users are then instructed to participate in a short survey in order to enter the competition. 

However, users are told that they must provide name, address and contact details before being entered. Fine print on the page advises that the details provided will be shared with third-party sponsors and used to send advertising material and various "promotional offers". In other words, by entering, users are giving permission for online marketers to inundate them with unwanted and annoying phone calls, emails and junk mail.

And, users are asked to submit a mobile phone number, ostensibly to confirm their entry. But, by providing their number, they are actually subscribing to an absurdly expensive text messaging "service" that will be charged at several dollars per message.

The people who operate these spam campaigns earn a commission via a suspect affiliate marketing system each and every time someone completes an "offer" or "survey". Affiliate marketing is a legitimate method of conducting business online. However, some participants are more than willing to use reprehensible and underhand tactics to increase profits, including sending fake "security" messages designed to trick people into clicking links.

The scammers bank on the fact that at least a few people who are tricked into clicking the "update" link will linger on the site when they are told that they can win a prize.

Be very cautious of any unsolicited email that claims that you must update an online account by clicking a link or opening an attached file. While this example is a survey scam, many very similar messages are phishing scams designed to harvest your personal and financial data and steal your identity.

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Last updated: November 19, 2013
First published: November 19, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
What is a Facebook Survey Scam? - Survey Scams Explained
Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information




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