In mid-November 2011, a survey scam purporting to offer free $100 Walmart gift cards to those who followed particular links then did as told once there spread via e-mail and Facebook.
Those links led to web pages (which were not operated or sponsored by Walmart) that asked the unwary to click what appeared to be Facebook “share” buttons and post comments to the scammer’s site (which was really a ruse to dupe users into spreading the scam by sharing it with all of their Facebook friends). Those who followed such instructions were 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” gift card offer stated that by accepting its terms, the user agreed to receive telemarketing phone calls and text messages from a variety of different companies:
In March 2012 another “free Walmart gift card” scam appeared, that one spread by e-mail or cell phone text message which promised $1,000 Walmart gift cards to recipients.
It too was a fraud. Walmart posted a security alert on its web site alerting consumers that:
In the last few days there has been a sudden increase in scam text messages referring people to a site where they can “claim a Walmart Gift Card” by entering certain private personal information. These attacks that take place through SMS Text message technologies to personal mobile phones are scams and are in no way sponsored by or affiliated with Walmart. This type of scam has come to be known as “Smishing” because of the use of SMS text technology. Similar to the way scam web sites send “Phishing” emails, scam artists have been sending text messages offering free Walmart gift cards to consumers in exchange for entering information on a mobile website. The most popular website being used recently is called “walmartgift.mobi”. This site is not owned, operated by, or affiliated with Walmart. Any site can be used for this scam and users are often asked for private personal information including credit card numbers or social security numbers. Providing this type of information is very likely to lead to identity theft or credit card fraud.
These text messages and the sites being used are not from Walmart and Walmart is not associated with parties promoting this activity. Walmart will never initiate a text message where we ask for sensitive personal data like credit card information or social security numbers.
On previous occasions Walmart has addressed others scams of similar nature, including other gift card sponsor offer scams, saying of them:
Walmart does not solicit online for individuals to complete online surveys for gift cards, nor do we send unsolicited emails asking individuals to participate in our surveys.
Walmart does not endorse and is not affiliated with any “sponsor offer” related program or survey.
Walmart will never send you e-mails or surveys that are contingent on your making purchases, subscriptions, or fulfilling other financial requirements.
Drawings for the receipt survey occur four times a year. Winners of the register receipt gift card are notified by certified mail, never via email.
Other contemporaneous survey scams of similar construction include:
- $50 or $100 Starbucks gift cards [October 2011]
- $25 Tim Hortons gift cards [October 2011]
- Apple iPods, iPhones, or MacBooks in memory of Steve Jobs [October 2011]
In December 2016 the coupon scam returned for the holiday season in a format frequently utilized spotted on social media, appropriating the name and logos of a popular retail chain or restaurant to scoop up Facebook profile access authorizations and personal information:
- Spilewsky, Olga. "Walmart Warns of Texting Scam That Promises $1,000 Gift Card." NBC-4 [Los Angeles]. 25 April 2012.
- CBS 4 [Denver]. "Walmart Gift Card Text Hits Phones Across Denver Metro Area." 7 March 2012.