Pop up ads

Pop-up scams

You’ve heard of pop-up shops and also probably pop-up restaurants. Now you need to watch out for pop-up scams.

How do they work?

A pop-up window says you’ll get a free product in exchange for a few minutes of your time to complete a survey. After answering several questions about your telecom services, or your shopping experiences, you’re offered your choice of several free products.

To obtain your free product, you’re directed to click through to a website—which takes you to yet another one designed to be a subscription trap. These sites are intended to trick you into believing that you’ll just pay a small shipping fee to receive your so-called free product. Instead, you’ll end up locked into paying a monthly fee.

Personalization makes them hard to spot

Scammers will  try to pique your interest by using slogans on websites, social media or even emails. These types of ads, often referred to as “clickbait”, are meant to entice you into taking a specific action, such as visiting a webpage, watching a video or answering a survey.

Scammers can also personalize the pop-up survey to look like it’s actually from the website you’re visiting, or from a company you already do business with. They use information that can be gathered from your IP address. This includes general geographic information (like your city or zip code), as well as your internet service provider.

A customer recently reported that she responded to a pop-up survey that appeared to be from us. It said she would receive a free gift for responding to the survey. However, the catch was in the fine print at the bottom of the survey. It stated her credit card would be billed $49.95 for the “free” gift.

These pop-up surveys are scams and not tied to TDS in any way.

How to steer clear

Avoid throwing your money out of the window by recognizing the red flags:

  • You’re asked for your credit card number even though the reward offered is free.
  • It’s too good to be true. Getting a free iPhone in exchange for a five-minute survey is an incredible deal. That alone should make you be suspicious.
  • Ads or sponsored content includes exaggerated slogans that entice you to click through.
  • The survey URL doesn’t end in “.com”, or “.org” unlike most legitimate company websites.
  • Surveys include multiple choice boxes that don’t have to be ticked for you to progress to the next question.
  • The survey is short, the questions very general and the survey doesn’t seem to be very useful.

Here are a few extra precautions you can take to protect yourself:

  • Avoid taking pop-up surveys, especially if they offer free products – these are often a trap!
  • Use your browser’s pop-up ad blocker (a quick search online will help you figure out how to do it on your browser).
  • Do not assume a survey is legitimate just because it appears to be from your internet service provider (ISP), scammers can determine who your ISP is by reading your IP address.
  • If prompted to complete a survey from your ISP, verify with your ISP that they have sent out the survey.
  • If a pop-up window is particularly difficult to get rid of, consider turning off your computer. On mobile devices, restarting your device can sometimes solve the problem.
  • If pop-up windows persist you may be dealing with malware. Keep your anti-malware software up to date and regularly run a scan to detect possible issues.

 

Surf safely out there!

 

About Cheryl McCollum

Cheryl McCollum is an Associate Manager of Public Relations at TDS Telecom. She has 25 years of media experience. She’s worked as a newspaper reporter in Northfield, Minn., and Beaver Dam, Wi. She worked in media relations and advocacy for the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Bankers Association. She also worked in communications and advocacy for Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. She has a Journalism and Political Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s married, has two adult children and enjoys traveling, especially to U.S. state capitols.
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