What is a Facebook Survey Scam? - Survey Scams Explained
Over recent years, Facebook has been plagued by the type of nefarious scheme that we refer to collectively as survey scams. The tactics used by these survey scammers vary between incarnations of the scam. But, scratch the surface, and you will find that they are all basically the same old con. This article describes in general terms how these scams work, how to avoid them and how you can help combat them.
To illustrate how such scams work, I'll use examples from a recent survey scam that targeted JB Hi-Fi.
How a Typical Survey Scam Plays Out
A seemingly enticing offer appears on Facebook Walls or is sent out via email. Often, the post promises free gifts, products or services for those who click a link in the message. In other cases, the post may promise access to titillating videos and photographs or breaking news stories. A common ploy is to offer potential victims a free gift card from a well-known retailer or take-away food outlet.
A typical survey scam post as it appears on a user's wall
If victims fall for the ruse and click the link, they will be taken to an initial page that outlines the first steps they must carry out to procure their free gift. Users will be instructed to first "Share" or "Like" the page and then post a comment:
By following the outlined steps, victims are promoting the very same fraudulent offers to their Facebook friends. Thus, following the instructions effectively turns victims into spammers.
Next, victims will be told that, before receiving their free gift, they must participate in one or more "surveys" or offers to verify that they are human:
But completing the survey is still not enough to claim the promised gift. Some of the "survey" pages ask users to provide personal information including name, address and contact details, ostensibly to allow them to go in the draw for a prize. Others invite them to download dubious toolbars, games or software. Still others will claim that users must provide their mobile phone number - thereby subscribing to absurdly expensive text messaging services - in order to get the results of a survey or go in the running for a prize:
The user will soon find him or herself caught in a confusing tangle of open webpages, all offering supposedly free gifts or services in exchange for participating. Often, trying to exit the pages will call up various "alerts" that try to convince the person to stay on the page rather than navigate away.
In any case, regardless of how many surveys are completed, the user will never receive the promised gift. The offer of the gift is simply the bait used to entice people into clicking the spam link in the first place. And, victims may also be faced with large phone bills for unwanted mobile phone services and, if they have provided name and contact details, they may be inundated with unwanted promotional emails, phone calls and junk mail as well.
Some survey scam versions entice users to install a rogue Facebook application as part of the first steps to receiving their (non-existent) gifts. Once given permission by the user, these rogue apps can then repeatedly spam the user's friends with more bogus promotions and scam posts.
What to Do if You Encounter a Survey Scam
If one of these posts appears on your Wall, simply delete it. Do not click on any links in the message. If you do click a link, do not carry out any of the instructions listed on the bogus promotional page. Do not install any applications if prompted to do so.
If you do get tricked into installing a rogue application via a survey scam link, go to "Home" > "Privacy Settings" > "Apps and Websites" > "Edit your settings" and go into the "Apps you use" settings. From there you should be able to remove the offending application.
The Motive Behind Survey Scams
The people who set up these scams earn a commission via a dubious affiliate marketing system each and every time someone completes an "offer" or "survey". While affiliate marketing is a legitimate method of conducting business online, some participants are more than willing to use reprehensible and underhand tactics to increase profits, including the offer of non-existent gifts or prizes via Facebook survey scams.
How You Can Help
One of the best ways you can help combat these survey scams is by letting your friends know about them. If one of the scam messages appears on your wall, be sure to let the friend who posted it know that he or she has been caught in a scam. You might want to send people to this page so they can learn more about survey scams.
You can also help by submitting examples of survey scams that you come across. I aim to publish warnings about new survey scams as soon as possible after they are reported to me. To submit an example:
- Copy and paste the text of the scam message (include the link)
- Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Please use this email address only for survey scam submissions. While I truly appreciate your submissions, I cannot personally reply to them.
Last updated: 11th January 2012
First published: 11th January 2012
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer