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Beware online offer for free gaming console, expert advises

By Bill Gephardt | Posted - Jan 31st, 2014 @ 9:11am

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SALT LAKE CITY — Online surveys are a fast, easy way for marketers to gather consumer information. The same holds true for scammers. They're promising free gaming systems on Facebook and other websites if users fill out a survey.

It's a nearly irresistible lure — a chance to win a free Xbox or PlayStation — and scammers know it.

"Any technology that comes out, it's almost a guarantee you'll see a scam like this," said Kathryn Linford of the Stratus I.T. Group.

The scam involves people disguising Facebook pages as contests for a free gaming console. To enter, users must "like" the page.

"Friends and family on your Facebook now just get the exact same link you got," Linford explained.

Then participants will be directed to an external page where they are told for a chance at that Xbox, they need to provide some personal information, like name, address and email address. Linford said the scammers are phishing for information they can use to create bogus identities.

"This information can then be used multiple different ways. Most of the time it's resold, as well, to cyber criminals," she said.

Some scammers will ask for the user's cellphone number, too.

"You'll end up with a bill for a large amount of services you haven't ordered, or then start using that for texts and other things like that," Linford said.

While participants are filling out the survey, there's a good chance some sort of virus or malicious software is being loaded into their computer. Then, since many people use the same password for all their accounts, if the scammers hack into one account, the others could fall like dominos.

"We want to make sure we use specific passwords for special sites, so if somebody does get a password, or information, they're not able to access all your other sites," Linford said.

Those who fill out the surveys won't end up with a free console.

The bottom line — avoid giveaways if they're not through the manufacturers or if they are through Facebook pages and websites you don't fully trust.


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