In February 2016, links began circulating on Facebook promising a treasure trove of Sharpie brand markers to users who completed a short series of steps:
The embedded links led to URLs which were generated seemingly at random and didn’t link to Sharpie’s web site. Users who clicked through to claim the promised prize were routed to pages which appeared plausibly Facebook-esque (but were hosted off Facebook):
As evidenced by the above-reproduced screenshots, the associated URLs don’t match the official domains of Sharpie or Facebook. The fake giveaway was another version of the common survey/sweepstakes scams which urge readers to share freebie bait on Facebook, which then spreads the scam to more friends and groups.
Most social media users are familiar with survey scams conducted in this fashion: Kohl’s, Costco, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kroger, Best Buy, Macy’s, Olive Garden, Publix, Target, and Walmart are among brands used as enticements by scammers, many aiming to capture personal information and valuable page likes from Facebook users.
A July 2014 article from the Better Business Bureau explained how to identify and avoid bad actors imitating high-profile brands on social media:
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.
When in doubt, do a quick web search. If the survey is a scam, you may find alerts or complaints from other consumers. The organization’s real website may have further information.
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.