Claim: Southwest Airlines is giving away two free air travel tickets to those who follow an online link.
[Collected via e-mail, November 2011]
Receive 2 FREE Southwest Airline Tickets Today!
For a limited time you can receive 2 FREE Southwest Airline Tickets good for any travel within the USA! Don't wait, this is a one time free gift offered just in time for the Holidays!
[Collected via e-mail, October 2012]
Planning for the holidays? Lucky you! Southwest Airlines is sending out thousands of complimentary flight vouchers to current Facebook users! To get yours, fly by [URL elided] to follow the on-screen instructions. Happy flight, courtesy of Southwest!
Origins: In mid-November 2011, a scam purporting to offer a pair of free air travel tickets on Southwest Airlines to those who followed particular links spread via e-mail and Facebook. Those who went in search of the promised freebies reached web pages bearing Southwest Airlines' "Share the Spirit" logo where they were told the offer was going to expire either that day or after a particular number of such giveaways was reached. (Embedded countdown counters helpfully showed rapidly reducing numbers of tickets to be had.)
These web pages (which are not operated or sponsored by Southwest Airlines) ask the unwary to click what appear to be Facebook "share" buttons and post comments to the scammer's site (which is really a ruse to dupe users into spreading the scam by sharing it with all of their Facebook friends). Those who follow such instructions are then led into a set of pages prompting them to input a fair amount of personal information (including name, age, address, and phone numbers), complete a lengthy series of surveys, and finally sign up (and commit to paying) for at least two "Reward Offers" (e.g., Netflix subscriptions, credit report monitoring services, prepaid credit cards):
Pursuant to the Terms & Conditions, you are required to complete 2 of the Reward Offers from the above. You will need to meet all of the terms and conditions to qualify for the shipment of the reward. For credit card offers, you must activate your card by making a purchase, transferring a balance, or making a cash advance. For loan offers you must close and fund the loan. For home security and satellite tv offers you must have the product installed. You may not cancel your participation in more than a total of 2 Reward Offers within 30 days of any Reward Offer Sign-Up Date as outlined in the Terms & Conditions (the Cancellation Limit).
Not only that, but the fine print on the "free" tickets offer states that by accepting its terms, the user agrees to receive telemarketing phone calls and text messages from a variety of different companies:
On 14 November 2011, Southwest Airlines issued this tweet: "Hey folks! There is a scam being passed around on Facebook about a 2 free ticket offer from SWA. Please don't click or share the links!"
That same day, in a statement to ABC Action News, Southwest spokesperson Christi McNeill said of these attempts to defraud that "We are aware of the scam for two free tickets being spread across Facebook. This offer is in no way affiliated with Southwest Airlines and we are working with Facebook to get it removed."
The scam returned in January 2012. In that version, those who attempted to reach the URL provided supposedly for the purpose of claiming the free tickets were instead victimized by a Facebook "lifejacking" attack, a malicious script that without their knowledge propagates to their friends.
In October 2012 the scam returned once more, again as a lifejacking attack.