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.
Importance NoticeAfter 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 YouI 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 DateHoax-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!