The ‘Free iPad 3’ Scams Have Already Arrived

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Just once, we’d like to see Apple release a new gadget without then seeing an onslaught of scammers trying to take advantage. Sadly, it doesn’t look like that will be the case with the new iPad.

Social media is abuzz with phony offers for free iPads right now. On Twitter, numerous accounts are tweeting out a link that purports to give you a free iPad, usually with a message along the lines of “Can't believe this! I just got a FREE iPad 3 from this site.”

How do we know this is a scam? Let us count the ways.

First of all, there is no iPad 3. While some people are referring to the new iPad as such, the company has decided to abandon the numbering system and just call it “the new iPad.” So if you see a website advertising that it has free iPad 3s, you have to question how legitimate it is.

Secondly, if the accounts tweeting the link seem like obvious spam accounts, it’s a red flag. If you’ve been on Twitter, you know the types: They follow thousands of people, have a scantily clad woman for a profile picture, tweet recycled jokes and aphorisms to make themselves seem legitimate, but sprinkle in plenty of links to scam websites.

And if none of that is enough to convince you not to click, then the website itself should erase any doubts that you’re dealing with a scam. The website electronicsgiftsnow.com gets a poor rating from Wot.com, which determines the trustworthiness of websites. But you don’t really need a third party to tell you that you’re dealing with a scam here. The website is offering a free iPad 2 instead of the iPad 3 you were promised in the tweet, and it even promises that you can customize the iPad to be in the color of your choice (the iPad only comes in white and black, so if a website promises you a purple one, it’s another strike against it). And the fine print on the page mentions that you’ll need to complete “reward offers” and “requires a purchase or filing a credit application and being accepted for a financial product such as a credit card or consumer loan.”

It’s not entirely clear what the scam will actually do, though we have a pretty good idea: The website prominently asks for your email address, which means at the very least that you’ll start getting all sorts of spam and phishing scams. When we put in a (fake) email address we were then taken to a page asking for our home address and phone number, which is exactly the kind of information that can form the basis of a targeted spear-phishing attack intended to steal even more of your sensitive data.

Twitter isn’t the only place you’ll find such scams – a search for “free iPad 3” on Facebook turns up numerous pages, including one that somehow managed to garner 800 fans and which links to a site called iPadSurprise.com. We decided it wasn’t worth seeing what the surprise was.

Needless to say, you should avoid such pages and websites. As much as it would be nice to get the new iPad for free, just remember the cardinal rule of spotting scams: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Matt Brownell is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at matthew.brownell@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @Brownellorama.

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