December 29 2015

Police Warn of Online Scam

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Police Department is warning residents of an online scam targeting people looking to save money after the holidays. 


“Who couldn't use some extra cash this time of year,” a notice by the Better Business Bureau linked to by the Burlington Police states. “Don't let the promise of a free gift card fool you into taking a scam ‘survey.’ These fraudulent emails and social media posts are really a way to promote dubious products and capture personal information.”  


The way the scam works, the BBB states, is that a potential target will receive an email or see a social media post urging them to claim a free gift card. One such post read "Alert: Walmart $100 Holiday Rewards are About to Expire! Claim Now.” The victim is then asked to complete a short customer satisfaction survey to receive a gift card. 

According to the BBB, the survey starts off with standard questions about how often you shop at the store and how you rate the website. But when you get to the end of the survey, you find there is no gift card after all. Instead, the site is offering $50 or $100 off a variety of dubious products, such as free credit reporting, wrinkle cream and background checks. 


“In other versions of this scam, the ‘customer survey’ asks for personal information, such as address and credit card number,” the warning states. “Con artists can use this information for identity theft.”


The BBB offers advice on how to spot a Customer Survey Scam: How to Spot a Customer Survey Scam:    


1) Don't believe what you see. It's easy to steal the colors, logos and header of any other established organization. Scammers can also make links look like they lead to legitimate websites and emails appear to come from a different sender.  


2) Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information on customer surveys. If they do ask for personal information, like an address or email, be sure there's a link to their privacy policy. 


3) When in doubt, do a quick web search. If the survey is a scam, this is likely to reveal an alert or bring you to the organization's real website, where they may have posted further information.


4) Watch out for a reward that's too good to be true. If the survey is real, you may be entered in a drawing to win a gift card or receive a small discount off your next purchase. Few businesses can afford to give away $100 gift cards for completing a few questions.


5) Don't act immediately... think first. Many scams urge you to act right now. (This scam's subject line, "Holiday Rewards are About to Expire! Claim Now!" is a perfect example.) Scammers hope to fool you into clicking before you think.

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