Tag Archive for scams

Free iPad — Is it worth it?

A reader from Philadelphia named Erin asks:

“I saw an offer online to get a free iPad. Is this a scam?”

I took a look at the web page address you sent me Erin, and in all likelihood its a legitimate offer, but you’re going to have to jump through a lot of hoops to get it.

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

The Hoops

As I said, you’ll have to jump through some hoops — 10 of them to be exact — in order to qualify. Here’s some more fine print:

To obtain the gift for this promotion you must:
1) register with valid information including e-mail address, shipping address, and phone number
2) complete the survey
3) complete at least 2 Silver, 2 Gold and 4 Platinum Sponsor Offers
4) be a U.S. resident 18 or older
5) not cancel your participation in more than a total of 2 Sponsor Offers within 6 days of the Sponsor Offer Initial Transaction Date
… Some Sponsor Offers may require a purchase to qualify.

Basically you’ll be giving away a lot of personal information such as addresses, emails, and phone numbers.

They will send you email.

They will call you by phone.

And you will shell out some cash. Not for the iPad. The cash will go to cover the shipping, handling, and subscriptions fees for some of the offers you will be required to accept.

I checked out the Silver, Gold, and Platinum offers, and here’s what will be asked of you:

The Gold and Silver Offers require you to either apply for a credit card or a credit report (and doing so might affect your credit rating). Or you might be asked to refer one of your friends to this program (which might cost you a friend). Or you might choose to subscribe to DVD subscription service. There were many other options, and they were all similar to the ones I’ve mentioned here. They require you to complete 2 Silver Offers and 2 Gold Offers to be eligible for the iPad.

The Platinum Offers , of which you must complete 4, involve more of the same, with some additional offers for dental health plans, air purification systems, and diet programs.

Is it worth it?

I don’t think so.

Why do they do this?

The folks offering you the free iPad are getting paid referral fees and incentives from the various service providers connected to the Silver, Gold, and Platinum offers. Some of these providers will pay as much as $30 t0 $80 for a legitimate email address or phone number.

A lot of people are going to get tired of trying to complete all the offers, and they’ll come up short, but the “free iPad folks” will still get their referral rewards. The number of people who fail to meet the requirements will outnumber those who complete the requirements. By then they’ll have made enough in referral fees to by half a dozen iPads.

Facebook to charge $4.99 per month in June?

Not true. Just a few weeks ago, if you’re an active Facebook user, you may have read that Facebook was going to start charging $4.99 to use the service starting at the end of June 2010. Here’s a snippet of the message that circulated last month:

Spyware Doctor Free Scan

There is a website that has over 83,000 members of people protesting the following… WE’RE AGAINST THE 4.99 A MONTH CHARGE FOR FACEBOOK FROM JUNE 30TH 2010 See website here…

[website address removed]

Thankfully, this was just one of many Facebook-related hoaxes that circulate the web. (The bigger the site, the bigger the target, the bigger the audience.) Unfortunately, the bogus message caused real problems for many people who decided to look into the web site and Facebook group it promoted.

Many who visited the web site clicked on certain elements which initiated a hijacking attempt on their computers. Further clicking resulted the downloading of malware, spyware, and “highly objectionable images” to the visiting computer.

Shortly after a counter message began circulating among Facebook users and friends alerting them to the harmful effects of the phony Facebook group and web site. (I received copies of both messages. I ignored the first, and said “Just as I thought” to the second.) The warning messages looked something like this:

WARNING: DO NOT JOIN the group We are against paying $4.99 for Facebook – IT’s A VIRUS AND HACKER! There are extremely graphic images at the website they suggest you visit. FACEBOOK has no plans on charging us. ELIMINATE THIS GROUP from your groups & run your spyware ASAP. REPOST THIS AS YOUR STATUS on your Profile. Thanks

Do you think, or know, you were a victim of this insidious hoax?

The problem with malware and spyware is its hard to detect, and its becoming an ever more common problem. Even more problematic than virus attacks.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad will charge any where from $200—$300 to remove spyware from your computer, but I strongly recommend you purchase Spyware Doctor software from PC Tools. It costs only $39.95 and can be installed on up to 3 computers. I recommend Spyware Doctor over any other antispyware program on the market today, but it’s not available in stores.

Only have one computer? Why not ask a friend or relative if they’d like to split the cost with you? You can have PC Tools mail you a CD copy for $9.95.

Read more Skylarking articles about Internet and email hoaxes circulating the web:

Truth About Email Petitions

I received the following question just last night:

I received an email telling me that email petitions and chain letters use tracking software and cookies to collect email addresses from anyone who receives that email message. I was also told that email petitions aren’t acceptable by congress like a signed petition would be. Are both these items true?

Well, the first is false, and the second is true.

Tracking Emails and Tracking Software

The only way an email can be tracked is from one sender to the first recipient. If I send an email message to a friend, it is possible for me to be notified when they open the message. If my friend forwards the message to someone else, there is no way for me to tell that has happened; nor is there any way for me to receive the email address of that second recipient, or any recipient after that. So, no, there are no tracking programs of this sort.

BUT, Remember the concept “Six Degrees of Separation”? Erase email addresses before forwarding a message

The idea of “Six Degrees of Separation” says that everyone is 6 steps away from any other person on the planet. Which in my way of thinking means that we are all six steps or less away from a spammer. The problem here being that when people forward an email message they usually leave any previous email addresses in the message, too, plus most people add new addresses of their own when they forward the message. The best practice here is after you click FORWARD and before you click SEND make sure you erase/delete any email addresses that appear within the email message. That is, just before you click SEND, read through the message and erase any email addresses you find in the message. If you don’t, you never know who in the chain knows or is a spammer.

BCC: Blind Carbon Copy Hiding Email Addresses

When you are sending an email message to multiple recipients, use the BCC or Blind Carbon Copy feature to address your message. That is, use BCC instead of TO. An, if your email software says, “At least one recipient is required in the TO field”, then put your email address in the TO field, and everyone else in the BCC field. The BCC field hides the email addresses from the recipients. When the sender uses the BCC field to address an email message, the recipients of that message will see “undisclosed recipients” in the TO field or elsewhere in the message. If you can’t find the BCC feature in your email software, contact your email service provider and have them tell you how to access it. Or you can contact Skylarking and I will help you find the feature.

Email Petitions Don’t Work

That much is true. A genuine petition requires signatures and street addresses. Anyone can type a list of names and email addresses into a petition, but there is no way for the recipient to prove or disprove that those people participated in or knew about the petition. It is best that each individual person email or contact their representative directly, and not as part of some long list of names in an email message. Additionally, you wouldn’t want to include your street address in such a petition, since you never know if that message might eventually end up in the hands of a spammer or an identity thief. After all, most acts of identity theft are performed by the victims friends, co-workers, and family members.

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