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Survey Scam With COVID Twist

It’s not uncommon for consumers to fall victim to email survey scams. Online surveys have become a haven for Internet scam artists who use them to steal personal and financial information from their victims by using trending topics and the names of logos of well-known organizations. BBB is warning consumers about phony online surveys claiming to be from pharmaceutical company Pfizer seeking information about their COVID-19 vaccine and advises consumers to be on the lookout for email or text variations of this scam claiming to be from other vaccine producers.

 How the Scam Works:

You receive an email or text message that claims to be from Pfizer, one of the pharmaceutical companies producing an approved COVID-19 vaccine. In some versions, the statement claims that you will receive money for completing a quick survey. Other versions offer a “free” product.

It sounds easy, but don’t click the link! These survey scams have a variety of tricks. The link may lead to an accurate survey, which prompts you to sign up for a “free trial offer upon completion.” Victims reported to BBB Scam Tracker that they entered their credit card information to pay what they thought was a shipping fee. Instead, the scammers billed them many times more and never sent the product. In other versions, the form is a phishing scam that requests banking and credit card information.

“Spam filters typically filter out malicious email scams,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President, and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas, said. “However, every once in a while, one will slip through the cracks. In general, it’s best not to click on links that come in unsolicited emails.”

BBB provides the following tips on how to spot a survey scam or other malicious email:

Personalized email. Scams often pretend to be personalized for you. Still, unless you subscribe or opted to receive an email from a business or organization with whom you have a relationship, they blast emails.

The urgency to act immediately- Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. Always be wary of emails urging you to act immediately or face a consequence.

Typos, strange phrasing, and bad grammar- Scammers can easily copy a brand’s name, but awkward wording and poor grammar are typically a giveaway that the message is a scam. For example, one version of the survey scam impersonating Pfizer uses the wrong company logo.

Links in disguise- Hover over URLs to reveal the proper destination. Typically, the hyperlinked text will say one thing, but the link will point somewhere else. Ensure the links lead to the business’s official website, not a variation of the domain name.

For More Information

Read more about coronavirus scams on the Federal Trade Commission’s website and BBB.org/coronavirus. Learn more about the disease at the CDC’s FAQ page.

BBB has identified many ways in which scammers are cashing in on the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about clinical trial scams, contract tracing cons, counterfeit face masks, and government agency impostors.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Please find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams. Sign up for BBB Scam Alerts to receive weekly notices of emerging scams to avoid.