We've received a number of questions from Facebook fans of Sophos regarding messages that have spread across the social network claiming to offer a $100 gift card for the Subway sandwich chain.
Here's a typical message:
Free Subway Gift Cards - Limited Time
Get Your Free Subway Gift Card Now! Click for Details
So, what's going on here? Well, the first thing to realise is that it's not something endorsed by Subway.
Although the link you click through to has no qualms about using Subway's logo, and images of meals you can purchase at Subway, it's actually from an independent third party company.
Many people will probably be so keen to receive $100 worth of Subway meals that they won't read the small print at the bottom of the page:
The above listed merchants or brands in no way endorse or sponsor FreeGiftCardSon.us's offer and are not liable for any alleged or actual claims related to this offer. The above listed trademarks and service marks are the marks of their respective owners.
FreeGiftCardSon.us is solely responsible for all Gift fulfillment. In order to receive your gift you must: (1) Meet the eligibility requirements (2) complete the rewards bonus survey (3) complete a total of 5 Sponsor Offers as stated in the Gift Rules (4) not cancel your participation in more than a total of 2 Sponsor Offers within 30 days of any Sponsor Offer Sign-Up Date as outlined in the Gift Rules (the Cancellation Limit) and (5) follow the redemption instructions.
The pages ask you some simple and apparently harmless questions: are you male or female, which age group do you fall into, etc.. before asking for your email address.
At this point the page tells you that you must post the message onto your Facebook page in order to qualify for the free $100 Subway gift card.
In this way the message is spread virally to your Facebook friends.
But there's still no sign of your free Subway gift card, because the site now wants you to hand over much more personal information, including your name, address, email address, full date of birth, cellphone and telephone number etc.
Again, notice that the webpage doesn't seem to have any issue with using the Subway logo - despite not being affiliated with Subway. Clearly this is done in an attempt to trick Facebook users into believing that they are talking directly to the high street brand.
According to the small print, you'll have to complete multiple "sponsor offers" before they will even consider sending you a gift card - which may cost you both in time and money, but also the sheer treasure trove of personal information you will have handed over.
My advice? Avoid these "offers" as they're unlikely to ever prove fruitful, and may result in you handing over a wealth of data about yourself to complete strangers. When you agree to post a message about such gift cards on Facebook, you are putting your online friends at risk of having their privacy damaged too.
If you use Facebook and want to learn more about spam, malware, scams and other threats, you should join the Sophos Facebook page where we have a thriving community of over 80,000 people.