Walmart is one of the world’s leading retailers and ranked as the 18th largest public corporation in the world according to the Forbes Global 200 list. Walmart has over 8,000 stores in 15 different countries with its headquarters located in Bentonville, Arkansas. With its vast growth and popularity among the U.S. population with an average of 100 million weekly customers, Walmart is clearly a consumer-favorite with their staple slogan, “Save money. Live better.”
Walmart’s reputation as one of the largest grocery retailers in the nation gives way to endless publicity and popularity, leading us to the present, where the eruption of Walmart scams have come to pollute the mobile world.
In March 2012, reports of a scam offering a “Free $1,000 Walmart Gift Card” flooded the media. This particular scam was not hitting people through emails and online ads; instead it was infiltrating people’s cell phones in the form of text messages.
“Smishing” is formed from the words “SMS” (short message service) and “phishing” (a fraudulent attempt to acquire personal information through email). The smishing message instructs people to call a toll-free number or visit a website to redeem the $1,000 Walmart gift card. The message typically reads, “You just won a free $1,000 Walmart Gift Card, enter “WALL” at http://promocenter.ws/walmart.”
Many sites similar to the one above appear on the results page after entering “Free Walmart Gift Card” in search engines such as Google, definitely making these sites hard to miss. Given the economic climate, thousands of people are enticed to click when the words “Free” and “Walmart” bring the feeling of hope and relief from their financial hardships.
These offers have also been published and promoted through other noteworthy avenues such as Facebook as fan pages and PRLOG.org, a press release distribution site. A press release on PRLOG.org states, “These are difficult times and any saving consumers can get is really appreciated. Now, a new website has been released and as part of a special promotion thousands of American citizens have the chance to get a free $1,000 Walmart gift card. Certainly, there are thousands of ways for spending $1,000 in such a big store.”
MSNBC’s LIFEINC published an article in March 2012, reporting the 2,000 complaints submitted to Scambook, who serves as a neutral platform for consumers to voice their complaints and aims to bring both businesses and consumers to a resolution.
Considering the amount of complaints we received in a matter of weeks, Scambook felt the need to dig deeper into the matter. What we discovered was how consumers could easily fall into handing over their personal information through the process of redeeming their “Free $1,000 Walmart Gift Card.”
Appearing to originate from a site named GetGoodies.com, the URL takes you through what seems to be a simple process.
You are then directed to a registration form, which kindly requests general information. “Tell us where to send your Free $1,000 Walmart Gift Card!” Looks like we’re finished? No, it doesnt stop here.
Next you are directed to a page labeled as “STEP 2,” indicating a progress bar and addressing you by your first name, “Steven, your Free $1,000 Walmart Gift Card is waiting!” This survey takes you through a series of questions about where you stand career-wise and financially.
You are led to another page also named “STEP 2.” In addition to the process of receiving a free Walmart gift card, you’ve won a free gift basket. This page gives you the choice to redeem the gift basket by calling a toll-free number and retrieving an activation code to enter into the required field. You also have the choice to skip this offer.
The offers are endless. If you choose to skip, you land on another page that indicates “STEP 2,” instructing you to complete three more steps to supposedly retrieve the Walmart Gift Card.
The process gets more malicious. They now prompt you to download a .exe file that they disguise to be a “Coupon Application”.
Doesn’t matter if you decline the previous pages or download. You land on a pop-up page called ConsumerCarSource after completing the “three” steps. Once you complete the forms, you are directed to a page that shows several different insurance companies to get quotes from.
If you go back to your original browser, you see “STEP 2” again with an offer to help improve your credit. You have the option to either submit to this offer or skip.
When you choose to skip, you are led to another “STEP 2” consisting of about seven additional offers, again giving you the option to either submit or skip. It seems like “STEP 2” is the step that will never end.
After skipping several offers, I finally reach the “LAST STEPS” to go through before retrieving my free Walmart Gift Card. The progress bar on the top right is completed, and the site tells me I’m almost done!
(the keyword here is “almost”)
I click on a few of the offers below to see which ones peak my interest. Quite a few different offers appear, and I could easily justify completing any of these offers to redeem a $1,000 Walmart Gift Card.
After clicking on a few offers to see which ones would suit me best, I saw a pattern of steps in each offer: 1) The offer was a bonus DVD, 2) The offer required my credit card information.
Before I realized, I found myself at a dead end where I felt I had no choice but to sign up for one of the offers to redeem the Free $1,000 Walmart Gift Card. In addition to these offers appearing click after click, pop-ups made several appearances through the process as well.
When the first form came up it seems like the Free $1,000 Walmart Gift Card was within reach. The ideas of a new TV and a ton of groceries were floating throughout my mind. When I reached a page with an offer requiring my credit card information, I had mixed feelings. A big red flag when you end up not submitting information to Walmart but for the American Rifleman Video Collection? (or any company they’re trying to entice you with, Best Buy, Home Depot, etc…)
They definitely gamed with my emotions by dangling the $1,000 carrot with the 20+ “Step 2” pages.
We here at Scambook hope that consumers would check Scambook.com when they suspect something fishy. Thanks to all the user that have shared their experiences via our Submit a Complaint form and brought this Scam to light in such a short time.
Written by Tuanh Dinh from Scambook