Scam of the Week – Vouching for the real deal

Last week one of my friends shared a post on Facebook last week about a promotion being run by Asda to celebrate their “Anniversary” whereby they would give every shopper a voucher for £85.  One of the world’s largest retailers was preparing to reward the loyalty of every customer with such a generous offer was unprecedented.  This simply looked too good to be true.  Alas, it was.

Unfortunately, by the time news would have reached HQ in Leeds, hundreds, if not thousands of Social Media users may be become the latest victim of a relatively simple scam.

There was no anniversary – Asda were formed on the 19th February 1949, nor was the domain name www.asdaoffer.us that appeared on the Facebook ad registered by Asda.  It was registered just a few hours prior to appearing on Facebook but not through their corporate domain name management partner, MarkMonitor but through Namecheap.com by a Naveen Patnayak who lives at 1130 in Mumbai – quite an ambiguous address in a city of 18.4 million people.

Fortunately, the website is no longer live and I haven’t seen the advert appear since on my Facebook timeline but the damage may have already been done.  With 1.86 billion active users on the world’s biggest Social Media network, hundreds of thousands of users will have faith that the adverts that appear on their timeline are genuine – after all there’s no health warning that appears to suggest anything but the truth should be appearing on people’s timelines.  In this instance, the brand targeted has millions of customers, many of whom will also be avid users of Social Media.  By the very nature of the two worlds combining, some people will have been duped by this advert.

It is unclear what the motives of the domain name registration were – perhaps to harvest personal details of duped shoppers to sell onto others, to grab financial details that may be used for nefarious purposes or to even spread malware to those who found their way onto the website.

Unfortunately, it only took a small amount of brain power to find a suitable domain name – Asda will have a robust domain name portfolio that balances opportunity and risk but they can’t be expected to have registered all relevant keywords in the 1,000 + Top Level Domains that exist today.  Likewise, major retail registrars will have processes in place that check domain name registrations for abusive keywords but “asdaoffers” may not scan in a way that would flag this was intellectual property abuse.

We all have to be part of the solution and not the problem.  Simply questioning what may seem to be a bonus or a bargain takes seconds but it could save you financially in the long run.

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