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Scam Alert

Conned by Customer Surveys

Scammers offer money for your opinion.

Your opinion matters—but unfortunately, it won’t be rewarded as promised by the phony surveys now circulating, allegedly from well-known American companies. In one scam occurring across the country, you may get an e-mail purporting to be from Wal-Mart, offering up to $150 for taking part in an online customer satisfaction survey. But after completing it, you are asked for your credit card number and PIN so the money can be applied to your account.

Don’t take the bait.

“We do not participate in these types of promotions and have no affiliation with them,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie tells Scam Alert. “We encourage customers who receive these e-mails to report it to their local authorities as well as the Federal Trade Commission.”

A similar e-mail ruse alleges to be from McDonald’s, offering $75 for answering a quick eight-question survey. In this scheme—a fillet of “phish,” so to speak—you are asked not only for feedback, but also for your bank account number and other personal information, including an electronic signature. Again, the excuse is that payment for your responses will go to your account.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud said that her company is aware of the fake feedback e-mails. A warning was placed on the “Contact Us” link on the McDonald’s website.

But Wal-Mart had no prominent warning on its website when contacted by Scam Alert. “Customers with concerns about these survey e-mails should call 800-WAL-MART [1-800-925-6278] with any questions about their legitimacy,” Hardie says. Hardie was unaware of yet another current scam involving her company—telephone calls made by someone pretending to be from Sam’s Club, the warehouse club affiliated with Wal-Mart. In that ruse, the caller says you’ve won a $1,000 shopping spree, again asking for your credit card number to pay for $9.95 UPS delivery of the check.

These schemes are examples of a new trend in phishing scams, which attempt to get your bank and credit card information to conduct identity theft.  People have gotten wise to traditional ploys—fake e-mails allegedly from banks, eBay, PayPal and other companies that ask you to update your account information. Now scammers are attempting to access your bank or credit card accounts by pretending to be from corporations offering money, to be deposited directly into those accounts, for your opinions or to collect prizes.
 
The bottom line: Ignore these e-mail or telephone cons. Companies rarely, if ever, offer money for your opinion, and even if they do, they will never ask for your bank or credit card information. What’s more, opening a “survey” or “prize notification” e-mail could unleash a computer virus to steal passwords or other sensitive information.

Several federal agencies jointly sponsor a website with information on online safety. And if you receive any suspicious e-mails or calls purporting to be from well-known companies, verify their legitimacy by contacting that corporation directly or checking with your local consumer protection office or state attorney general.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of “Scam-Proof Your Life” (AARP Books/Sterling).

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