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McDonald’s Survey Phishing Scam Email Outline

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Email, purporting to be from McDonald’s, claims that recipients can get a $250 fee for filling in a short survey.

Brief Analysis

The message is a scam. The survey is bogus and the promised fee is the bait designed to trick victims into submitting personal and financial information to Internet criminals.

Example

Subject: McDonald’s

Dear [Name removed],

You have been selected to participate in a public opinion poll conducted by McDonald’s, 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:

http://www.***********************survey.html

Each person taking the poll will win $250
Thank you for your participation!

Sincerely,
Survey Manager

Official Rules | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy

 

Detailed Analysis

According to this email, the recipient will be rewarded with a $250 payment from McDonald’s just for filling out a very short and simple survey. The message instructs recipients to click a link included in the email to participate in the survey.

However, the email is not from McDonald’s and the survey and the promised $250 payment are entirely bogus. The “survey” is a ruse designed to fool victims into submitting their credit card details and other private information to Internet criminals. Those who click the link in the message will be taken to a web page that contains a five-question survey about McDonald’s food and service.
The page includes official-looking McDonald’s logos designed to make the bogus survey seem more legitimate. Once the survey is complete, the participant is instructed to click a button, supposedly to claim the $250 fee.

Clicking the button opens a second web page that asks for name, ID and credit card details, supposedly to allow the $250 fee to be added to the survey taker’s card account. Once submitted, these details can be collected by the criminals operating the scam and used for credit card fraud and identity theft. The following screen captures depict the bogus survey and submission form:

McDonald's Survey Phishing Form 1

McDonald's Survey Phishing Form 2

To further the illusion that the message is legitimate, secondary links at the bottom of the scam email actually point to pages on the genuine McDonald’s website.

very similar scam that has also recently been distributed claimed that Coca Cola was the company paying a $250 fee for survey participants. As in this version, a bogus submission form asked participants to provide credit card and other personal information. Scammers also use other well-known institutions in variations of the same bogus survey scheme, including Walmart, Citibank and even the IRS.

This is certainly not the first time that criminals have used bogus McDonald’s surveys as a means of stealing personal and financial information from unsuspecting recipients. An earlier version (see example below) of the McDonald’s survey scam that was first reported in 2009, supposedly offered Australian McDonald’s customers $50 for participating in a “quick 7 question survey”. This version also stole credit card details from victims via a bogus submission form that appeared on completion of the survey.

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.

An example of an earlier McDonald’s survey scam message:

Subject: Receive $50 Bonus To Participate In Our Customer Satisfaction Survey

Dear McDonald’s Customer,
We are planning big changes for 2009 at McDonalds AU chain of restaurants and because your oppinion is very important to us, we invite you to take a short Customer Satisfaction Survey that will help us improve the quality of our food and services.
We know your time is valuable, so we will give you a $50 bonus just for taking our quick 7 question survey. The entire process will take no more than 5 minutes.

Take the survey (link to bogus website removed)

You can participate in this survey only once.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer