As Facebook users share links from news sites about Steve Jobs and the announcement of his death, scammers are tricking users into going to survey sites in hopes of a free iPad.
Scammers have jumped on the
news of Apple founder Steve Jobs' death to push forward more survey scams on
Facebook. Security researchers warned more are probably on the way.
In the latest scam, Facebook
users are told that a company-not Apple-is giving away 50 iPads in memory of
Steve Jobs, Sophos researchers posted Oct. 6 on the Naked Security
blog. The ghoulish scam appears on the user's
Facebook Wall with a picture of the former Apple CEO.
The post is deceptively
simple, titled, "R.I.P. Steve Jobs," and the accompanying URL is a
shortened link from Bit.ly with "restinpeace-steve-jobs." Users
clicking on the link are automatically directed to a survey site, which is required
before qualifying for the free offer. This particular link appeared about two
hours after news of his death broke in the evening of Oct. 5. Since then, the
post had tricked more than 25,669 people from 100 countries to click through to
the bogus survey site, according to Bit.ly's analytics page.
"Sickeningly, as with
the deaths of other figures in the public eye, there are scammers waiting to
take advantage of bad news," Graham Cluley, senior security consultant at
Sophos, wrote Oct. 6 on the Naked
Sophos has asked Bit.ly to
shut the link down, and the link was flagged as "potentially
problematic" around 8 a.m. EDT on Oct. 6. Users who inadvertently wound up
on the site must shut down the entire Web browser to get off the page because
simply trying to leave the page opens up multiple text boxes entreating the
victim to fill out the survey.
The scam was primarily
spreading via Facebook, as users clicked on the link from the main Facebook
site as well as from the mobile version. However, the survey scam also appears
to be spreading through email and instant messaging as users share the link
with friends. The victims were predominantly from the United States, accounting
for 43 percent of the clicks.
Cluely said more such tricks
are likely, as scammers look for other ways to take advantage of the intense
public interest in Steve Jobs. "It wouldn't be a surprise," if there
are scams trying to take advantage of people who want to make a tribute for
Jobs to "donate to Steve's favorite charities," Cluley said.
A quick check on Bit.ly
revealed at least three other shortened links directing users to questionable
sites, along with a harmless one which "Rick-Rolled" users with a
YouTube video of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."
Survey scams work by conning
unsuspecting Facebook users into completing questionnaires in exchange for
receiving a product or service in an "exclusive" deal. The survey
usually asks for personal details, and in some cases, the scammers take the
cell phone numbers and sign victims up for premium-rate text messages for
various "services." The people behind these survey sites earn
affiliate revenues from unscrupulous marketing firms for driving people to the
site, signing up for services or taking online surveys.
The site uses the visitor IP
address to localize the site appropriately. Cluley viewed the scam from
Barcelona, Spain, and saw the page in Spanish, and the same link displayed
different pages for Australian and U.S. users.
Users should think carefully
about the links they click on. "Time and time again scammers and
cyber-criminals have proven themselves to have no qualms about exploiting news
stories," Cluley wrote, whether they are of natural
or people's deaths.