The promise is seductive. Two of the biggest technology companies on the planet are combining forces to give their adoring fans free iPads and iPhones? Yes! And all you have to do is give up all your personal information for that chance.
That's what spam scammers are hoping you will do once you see the quasi-personal letter from everyone's favorite friend networker, Mark Zuckerberg. The e-mail will come off as somewhat legit, singling you out as a randomly selected winner of a one-time only promotional event sponsored by Facebook and Apple.
So, you've already won a free iPad or iPhone, but there's a catch. Mark Zuckerberg just needs your e-mail address, phone number, and other account information to confirm. And of course, the site that Zuckerberg chooses to use to acquire that information is not Facebook, but a random promotional company.
Now, if the user is to click the link to claim their prize, they will be taken to a Web site that explains how they may be a potential winner, despite the fact that Zuckerberg's e-mail claimed they had already won. But don't worry, if you can answer a simple question, you'll be in the running to get that iPhone or iPad.
But wait. There's something else. Something at the bottom of the screen. It's in really, really small print. What's that say? Oh, by participating you are authorizing a small charge to be added to your phone bill on a weekly basis. And that iPhone you already won but are in the running to win?
It's not coming.
This scam, according to security expert Graham Cluley, is designed to get commissioned sales for scammers for everyone they trick into signing up for this small charge. For some of us who have been working in the tech industry a long time, this scam and others are pretty easy to spot, but that's not the case for many who fall for it every day.
The clues are subtle, but one big theme to these scams runs throughout all of them. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Why on earth would Apple team up with Facebook to give away, as a promotion, a device that is one of the best-selling consumer electronics products in history?
Other clues you should look for when you get a similar e-mail are where the e-mail is being sent from. In the case of the Facebook/Apple promotion scam, the e-mail is being sent by Mark Zuckerberg (highly unlikely he would take the time to send out promotional e-mails) from a Hotmail address. Zuckerberg probably hasn't had a Hotmail address since the rest of us used ours, circa 1999.
Lastly, if you are taken to a site that claims to represent a high-powered brand like Facebook or Apple and requires you to enter any information for a "promotion," it is most likely a scam. Any promotional marketing done by these companies will be done through official channels on their own sites.
Take the time to read the small print and stay safe online. It can be tricky, and I'm sure many of us would love to actually be an iPad or iPhone winner. Just make sure these contests are legit before offering your information. Have you experienced any scams trying to give away an iPad or iPhone? Let me know your experience in the comments!