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.
This video From the Hoax-Slayer YouTube Channel covers a typical Facebook survey scam:
To further illustrate how such scams work, I’ll use examples from another survey scam that targeted JB Hi-Fi.
How a Typical Survey Scam Plays Out
A seemingly enticing offer appears on your Facebook news feed. Often, the post claims that you can get the chance to win valuable prizes such as luxury cars, cruises, or airline tickets. Or, the post promises free gifts, products or services. A common ploy is to offer potential victims a free gift card, coupon, or voucher from a well-known retailer or takeaway food outlet.
A typical survey scam post as it appears on a user’s news feed:
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 or prize entry. 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 or claiming their prize entry, 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 or prize. Many 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. However, fine-print on the sites will state that, by participating, they are agreeing to share their information with “site sponsors” and third-party marketing companies. So, soon after participating, victims may begin receiving unwanted and annoying phone calls, text messages, emails, and surface letters that try to sell them various products and services that they most probably neither want nor need.
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 web pages, all offering supposedly free gifts or services in exchange for participating. Often, trying to exit the pages will call up various “alerts” that attempt 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 or prize entry. The offer is simply the bait used to entice people into clicking the spam link in the first place.
Some survey scam versions entice users to install a rogue Facebook application as part of the first steps to receiving their (non-existent) gifts or prizes. 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 comes your way, simply ignore 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, go to your Facebook Profile, click the arrow to the right of the lock icon on the top menu and then click “Settings”. Now, click “Apps” on the left menu to open the App Settings section. From there you should be able to remove the offending application. (Please note that these instructions describe accessing Facebook from a computer web browser. If you are using Facebook on a mobile device or via an app, you may need to use a different method to access your settings.)
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
The best way you can help combat these survey scams is by letting your friends know about them. If one of the scam messages appears on your news feed, 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.