Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Trend: Stimulus Scammers

With news of the President's Stimulus package dominating the media, it was only a matter of time before one of our long-time scammers decided to prey on the American public that way. Today we'll look at three "Stimulus Check" spam messages and show you how they are linked to a long-lived scam campaign.

Its been almost exactly a year since the Federal Trade Commission charged Member Source Media for deceptive advertising by email. In that case, A $200,000 Fine was levied against them for email advertisements claiming you could get "free" products and then requiring the consumer to jump through the hoops of completing multiple "offers" and likely never receiving any payment at all. You can read all the details of the case in the 18 page judgement for Civil Penalties and Permanent Injunctive Relief.

As you'll see below, the current case looks exactly like the previous one, which also included offers such as "Claim your $500 Target Gift Card Now". The current scammers seem to prefer WalMart and IKEA gift cards, but the sentiment is the same.

Here are three sets of Email, Web Entry Page, Personal Data Page . . . in each case the domain in the spam does not match the ultimate page to which you are rerouted.

While that certainly looks like they are asking where you want to send your stimulus check, they in fact have no intention of sending you any money.

Again, doesn't it look like they intend for you to receive a check? Be sure not to give them ANY of your personal information!

In whichever of these scams you choose to look at, the bottom line comes down to this. In order to receive any payment whatsoever, you have to complete their "rewards participation programs".

This isn't about getting a Stimulus check at all, and has nothing at all to do with the government. We can prove this to ourselves by looking at some of the other scams these hucksters offer.

For instance, if I choose "config=5421" on, I'm being promised a $1,000 Visa Gift Card.
5420 = Free Pair of Fit Flops
5419 = Free Samsung Washer & Dryer
5418 = North Face Denali Jacket FREE!

So what's the scam?

Now that they have your email address, mailing address, telephone number, and in this case, estimated household income, its time for them to reveal their hand.

To get your check, you have to complete "2 Silver Offers, 2 Gold Offers, and 6 Platinum Offers" from their partners, all within the next 60 days, *AND* you have to personally recruit someone else who *ALSO* has to complete all the offers within 60 days. If you fail to complete all your offers, OR you fail to recruit a friend who completes all the offers, you don't get your check.

Some of the offers include . . .

Trying a Credit Reporting Service
Trying a Make-up Sample Kit
Trying Acai Berry Slim MD
Signing up for NetFlix
Signing up to learn about Government Grant Money
Signing up to learn how to make money on eBay
Signing up for Wrinkle Cream
Signing up for Silkies Hosiery
Taking a Video Professor computer lesson
Signing up for a Disney Movie Club
Trying the Cosmetique 5-Piece Sistina Collection
Signing up for a Disney Movie Library
Ordering Business Cards
Signing up to Learn a Language with OnLingo
Joining the Crafter's Book Club

and on, and on, and on . . .

Apparently the penalty of a $200,000 fine from the FTC is not enough of a threat to prevent this new group of scammers from continuing where Chris Sommer and friends left off last year.

If anyone in the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection would like many samples of such emails, just let me know. The UAB Spam Data Mine would be happy to provide!

We have many examples even just this year of
$500 Disney Gift Card
Victoria's Secret Gift Card
$1000 Wal-Mart Gift Cards
$1000 North Face Gift Card

Here are some of the "offers" you have to fulfill from "" if you want to get your Free Jet Blue Airline Tickets:
Example Offers

If you don't like Jet Blue you can get Free SouthWest Tickets instead.

Of course there are still plenty of Free Laptops, like this one:
or this one:
from Simple Free Rewards
or get His and Hers Laptops

And we've still get SamSung Washers & Dryers.

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Trying a new setting. After turning on comments, I got about 20-30 comments per day that were all link spam. Sorry to require login, but the spam was too much.