Phone text message claims that the recipient has been selected to receive a $1000 Walmart gift card. The recipient is instructed to visit a website and enter a code to claim the prize.
The text is not from Walmart and the claim that the recipient has won a $1000 Walmart gift card is untrue. The message is a scam designed to trick users into divulging personal information via dodgy online “surveys” and “offers”. Participants will never receive the promised gift card.
Many people have reported receiving text messages like the example shown above which claim that they have been selected to receive a $1000 gift card from large US-based retail chain, Walmart. The messages instruct recipients to follow a link and enter a provided code word to claim their free gift card.
However, the message is certainly not from Walmart and the claim that the recipient has won a $1000 gift card is a lie. In fact, the text message is a typical survey scam designed to trick participants into divulging personal information and signing up for ridiculously expensive SMS “services”. Those who fall for the ruse and go to the “claim” website will first be presented with the following entry page, or one similar to it:
After they have entered their “code”, victims will be redirected to another website where they are invited to enter a quiz, participate in an online survey, or enter their name and contact details to go in the draw for a prize. Victims are led to believe that they are required to participate in order to claim their free gift card. The actual survey or offer page that the victim is taken to may vary considerably. For example, during testing for the article, I was initially invited to try a “movie quiz”, which asks a series of film-related questions before claiming that I must enter a mobile phone number before getting the quiz results:
In a second test of the scam link, the initial “claim” website – which by the way accepted and “validated” a random word I entered rather than the “code” specified in the text message – redirected me to another “survey” page that promised to calculate when I might die, based on the data I provided. At completion, I was again informed that I was required to provide my mobile phone number to get the results:
As you can see by the above screenshots, by entering their mobile phone numbers, users are in fact subscribing to exorbitantly expensive SMS services. Such services are often difficult to unsubscribe from and can quickly run up large phone bills or consume available phone credit. In other incarnations of the scam, users may be invited to download dubious toolbars, games or software that may harvest the user’s personal information or browsing habits. And, if they have provided name and contact details via the bogus surveys, they may be inundated with unwanted promotional emails, phone calls and junk mail as well. In some instances, if users have provided a significant amount of personal information or financial details such as credit card numbers on the bogus survey sites, they may become vulnerable to identity theft or credit card fraud.
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 survey scams like the one discussed here.
Of course, regardless of how many surveys, quizzes or offers the hapless recipient participates in, he or she will never receive the promised Walmart Gift Card.
As well as the phone text message version of the scam discussed here, email and social media versions have also been reported.