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Be Wary of Survey Scams

Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4

Online surveys are too often scams designed to steal personal or financial information, warns Phil Muncaster at ESET. Muncaster explains that these surveys are usually distributed via phishing or by ads on websites, impersonating trusted brands and offering phony rewards.

“The scam often begins with an unsolicited email or text/message likely spammed out to countless other victims. This is basically a phishing message designed to lure the recipient into participating by clicking through.”

It often features a well-known brand to add a sense of legitimacy and encourage the victim to participate. In December 2022, a popular survey scam abused the brand of chocolate maker Cadbury to do this – promising recipients the chance to win “an exclusive Christmas Chocolate Magic Basket” if they took a short quiz.

“The scam may feature a thematic lure – such as the Christmas Cadbury one, or the supposed ’40th anniversary’ of wholesaler Costco which was used in a June 2022 campaign in South America.” These scams can cause varying degrees of damage. Many are focused on collecting information, and others attempt to trick the user into installing malware or transferring money. Muncaster offers the following recommendations to help users avoid falling for these scams.

  • Look out for any offers that seem too good to be true. It could be a large cash prize for just a few minutes of work or an expensive gift.
  • Watch out for typos or poor grammar – it could be a sign that things aren’t quite right.
  • Shortened URLs might also indicate fraud.
  • Time-limited offers are another way for scammers to turn up the pressure on their victims.
  • Some senders may be vague about who’s running the survey – with no ‘contact us’ link to follow.
  • If the sender uses a free webmail account, then the survey is likely to be a scam.

It’s worth noting that such scam surveys represent a business as well as a personal risk. Many of them are cast as business-to-business surveys to take the temperature of a market, or to gauge the climate of opinion among customers. New-school security awareness training can enable your employees to thwart social engineering attacks.

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