In July 2018, the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain of fast casual restaurants ran a promotion in conjunction with National Avocado Day, offering free guacamole to customers with their orders on 31 July:
Unfortunately, scammers took advantage of this promotion to post counterfeit offers for free $100 Chipotle gift cards, touting that users need only share a link with five friends to claim their bounty:
This fake offer was just another variation of a long-running form of scam with a familiar pattern.
First, scammers set up look-alike websites and social media pages that mimic those of legitimate companies in order to promote scams advertising free gift cards or coupons. Users who respond to those fake offers are required to share a website link or social media post in order to spread the scam more widely and lure in additional victims. Then those users are presented with a “survey” that extracts personal information such as email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and even sometimes credit card numbers. Finally, those who wish to claim their “free” gift cards eventually learn they must first sign up to purchase a number of costly goods, services, or subscriptions (negating the “free” aspect of the gift card).
The Better Business Bureau offers three tips to identify similar scams:
Don’t believe what you see. It’s easy to steal the colors, logos and header of an established organization. Scammers can also make links look like they lead to legitimate websites and emails appear to come from a different sender.
Watch out for a reward that’s too good to be true. If the survey is real, you may be entered in a drawing to win a gift card or receive a small discount off your next purchase. Few businesses can afford to give away $50 gift cards for completing a few questions.