The Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes Scam

Note 1: All external links on the excerpted email have been deactivated due to suspected malware at the source.

Note 2: (January 2011) Comments on this post are permanently closed. Please do not contact me with questions about the Readers’ Digest Sweepstakes. I am NOT connected with Readers’ Digest and I do NOT have additional information about the sweepstakes.  Neither will I direct inquiries to them on your behalf. If you have issues with the marketing methods used by Readers’ Digest, please direct them to your own RD country representative and not to me.


Note to everyone who is scam-prone: read this, and be wiser about how to see right through flimsy scams such as the one I shall expose below, the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes Scam.

Oh, what a comedown for a magazine everyone used to think was top-notch reading material back in secondary school.  Is Reader’s Digest really so desperate for money?  Are they so confident in the trust and goodwill of their customers that they can afford to abuse it?  Today, I got this email:

POTENTIAL FINALIST TO WIN S$225,000 IN THE THIRD AND LAST STAGE OF THE READER’S DIGEST SWEEPSTAKESTo: Mint KangAn Official Access Code has been issued in your name. It confirms that ONLY YOU, Mint Kang, may activate the 4 Sweepstakes Entry Numbers held on reserve for you. If you’re lucky and any one of your entries is drawn winner, you’d have sole claim to a cash amount worth S$225,000!

You may be surprised to know that in all of Singapore, less than 5% of the households have been selected to receive this incredible chance. While many of your neighbours will never be selected, you have already been lucky enough to clear two of the three stages there are to becoming a winner in our Sweepstakes!

Now it’s all up to you, Mint Kang — make the most of your chance! Simply click for your Official Access Code and activate your 4 Sweepstakes Entry Numbers.

Confirm your Finalist Status NOW – you’ll be pleased you did!

Sincerely,

Benjamin Soh
Prize Award Administrator

P.S. When people receive a Sweepstakes invitation — like the one you now have — they often decide to discard it, thinking, “no one ever really wins.” And it is a fact that if you choose to ignore your 4 Sweepstakes Entry Numbers, you will NEVER WIN ANYTHING in our Sweepstakes. Don’t let this guaranteed chance slip away, just click for your Official Access Code and you could win S$225,000. Act quickly!

* Reader’s Digest will send you emails from time to time, to inform you about our latest activities and promotions, because we value you as our customer. However, you may discontinue this at any time – just send an email to friends@rdasia.com.sg with the subject header <Unsubscribe> and we will remove you from our emailing list promptly.

Sweepstakes Rules | Privacy

I opened it because the email domain was rdasia.com.sg, which is the legitimate Reader’s Digest domain.  What I found was shoddy, suspicious and downright shabby.  For instance, who is Benjamin Soh, Prize Award Administrator?  I searched the Reader’s Digest website and found him listed nowhere.  I couldn’t even find him on LinkedIn.  What gives him the authority to dispense such large amounts of money?  And how about this: the images in the email are not hosted by Reader’s Digest, not even the logo itself.  They derive from the postdirect.com domain, which is an email marketing company.  Absurd!  Reader’s Digest claims to be giving away so much money, yet they are going through third parties to do so?

I decided to follow this up.  I clicked on the link.  It brought me to a page where I could “verify my details” and confirm my “official access code”.  What details were being verified?  My title, full name and email address.  So I ran a test.  I entered “Testing Testing” in the name field and clicked confirm.  It took me to a page with a progress bar that said my details were being confirmed.  Ahem.  Some confirmation that must have been, because I next saw:

GREAT NEWS, Ms Testing Testing!

You’re just a few clicks away from being registered as a guaranteed Finalist in the Selection of Winners Stage of the Reader’s Digest S$620,000 Sweepstakes.

On a hunch, I clicked back to the progress bar page and examined the code.  What did I see?  An animated GIF and a javascript timer.  Confirmation, indeed.

Now I was curious: what was Reader’s Digest trying to get out of this poorly executed bit of flimflam?  I proceeded.  I received a set of sweepstakes entry numbers: RV137164, JL530116, MS632634, KG206518.

I clicked back to the previous page and tried again.  Hey, look!  I got ANOTHER absolutely free set of different sweepstakes entry numbers!  PG353042, MD931014, SJ558272, LC885166!  Maybe they were holding not four, but EIGHT numbers in reserve for me!

I proceeded.  Activate!  And I was promptly presented with three brand-new cars I had a chance at winning.  A “Sukuzi Swift”, a “Volkwagen New Beetle” or a “Peugeot 207″.  Apparently I had been offered a decoder card that would let me win one of them.  It came up…the Peugeot!  The only one spelled correctly?  Must be coincidence.

Next, I saw this.

Bonus – you qualify to CLAIM A FREE GIFT!
Click on the image when you see a ‘GIFT BOX
– and discover your Free Gift.

Just for fun, I clicked on everything but the gift box, and got my gift anyway.  How generous.  But all this still doesn’t tell me what Reader’s Digest is hoping to achieve, apart from wasting my time.  I kept clicking.  Aha!

GREAT NEWS, Ms Testing Testing!

You’re just a few clicks away from confirming your chance to win a Peugeot 207 1.6 Sports 5DR (A) and S$5,000 Bonus – on top of your chance to win the S$225,000 Super Grand Prize and Bonus – when you take advantage of our music offer today!

What followed was a long advertisement for a 5-CD country music collection.  I get an idea what they’re up to now.  Selling music CDs.  Closer inspection reveals that unless I purchase this 5-CD set, I cannot have my “reserved” numbers entered in the sweepstakes; I cannot have a chance to win that brand-new Peugeot; I cannot even get my “free gift”.

Here’s a final, funny twist.  There’s a form to fill in before proceeding: title, full name, address 1, address 2, city, postal code, email, telephone (home) and telephone (mobile).  In a fit of perversity, I fill myself in as Dr Bull Shit, address either Scammer Heaven or Scammer Hell, city Do I look that stupid?, postal code 000000, email shameonyou@readersdigest.com, both phone numbers 6666 6666.

Good Lord!  The form accepted that!

And then promptly redirected me to “READER’S DIGEST EXPRESS PAYMENT PAGE”, where I had a choice of using MasterCard or Visa to pay S$129.00 for…well, by now I’m not sure just what I’m paying for.  The privilege of being a sucker?  And to top everything off, the “Customer Service Department” email was listed as friends@rdasia.com.sg – the mass-mail automatic address that sent me this shabby scam in the first place. It’s painfully obvious from all this that the people who set up this scheme don’t care about anything but money – any way, any time, at any price.

Shame on you, Reader’s Digest.  Shame on you.

About these ads

24 Comments

  1. Alexis

     /  19 April 2010

    My goodness, I’ve received exactly the same email minutes ago,.which i duly filled up though declined to buy the CDs. I got suspicious after that and thus Googled, ended up reading your experience.
    I’m now worried about my information getting misused,…to think I thought Reader Digest is a reputable magazine. Next time I’ll be on alert and learn from your testing.

  2. Martin

     /  19 April 2010

    eh Mint,

    This is just their marketing. They have been running this kind of sweepstakes for years.

    They didn’t actually told you that you won – you are just a finalist as are millions of other people. They mass mailed this out but they do eventually pick a few winners from the pool.

  3. @ Alexis: you and I weren’t the only ones to get that RD email. Within 4 hours of being put up, this post received something like 20-30 hits from people googling various versions of “reader’s digest sweepstakes”, occasionally with “scam” thrown in.

    If that translates to 20-30 people who haven’t fallen prey to a shoddily presented money grab, I’m happy.

  4. As an addendum to this, Reader’s Digest DOES NOT PERMIT PEOPLE TO UNSUBSCRIBE FROM THEIR MASS MAIL LIST. After receiving yet another ridiculous lucky draw offer, I sent an email with the subject line “Unsubscribe”, as the above email instructs. Since then I have been getting spam about yet more lucky draw scams from them every other day.

    Solution: filter everything with rdasia.com.sg straight into the trash. Those who feel combative may even try taking it up with Case, but IMO that won’t be worth the trouble. Reader’s Digest has proven itself to be unscrupulous junk, so treat it like what it is.

  5. Passer-by

     /  8 May 2010

    I got a mail something like that. Small world eh?

  6. Isaac

     /  18 May 2010

    I even got the free discovery channel magazine one time as their mistake to register me to subscribe their magazine as the result I tried to enter all my particular on this sweeptakes.

    Thank GOD I never entered my bank account no.

    =)

  7. Quite right! I received the exact same message a few weeks ago – prompting me to sign up in order to be in the top 1% of the winner circle.

    After reading this message, I feel relieved that I didn’t succumb to this “Nigeria” scam.

  8. chellachamy selvarani

     /  11 July 2010

    I have already paid for the books which Reader’s Digest sent. But still they send me the bill to pay again. I really don’tunderstand. Please check my payment again

  9. Jason

     /  1 August 2010

    Hi, all.

    My name is Jason and yes, I also received similar letters and chances to win big money from Readers Digest. I thought it was really really real, because RD was a genuine company and a big international company after all. But luckily I still do not possess one credit card yet, and so I didn’t reply to it. It even says on the front envelop: “72 hours of notice…or something”. Man, luckily I do a search online on RD scams, luckily your blog shows up and i read it, it makes me feel better now. haha. thanks. have a good day.

  10. selvi

     /  18 August 2010

    Hey..
    I too got such an email…definitely thought it maybe some scam but was curious to know what if I might actually win that much money as primised..so googled(making silent prayers this was not a scam already had my shopping list scanned in those few seconds)….and finally landed on your post about it being a scam..thanks for posting it to us all and helping us ..Big Thank you(though I am sad I havent really won nothing:)

  11. Nikhil

     /  19 August 2010

    Guys, this is a scam and it has nothing to do with RD. if you closely check RD website, their url is completely different than the one we all have received. That means this is some fradulant company who is taking advantage of RD name and trying to make money.

  12. Proteus

     /  9 September 2010

    Well, same goes for me as well.
    I do know that look suspicious but i did follow through till payment screen.
    My version is a bit different , they mention that i have a chance to win 225000 SGD and Guarantee chance to win 80000 and i got a free gift of a watch.
    and The authentication the website is poorly made and it didnt even check anything.
    Just as u did, I put Fake information on the form and it still accept :D soo funny.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    Although I am still wondering how the hell did they get my email + my name .
    I never use my name on this email + i didnt use this email at all .
    weird .

  13. Uma

     /  24 September 2010

    Why does not a comapny like Readers Digest take action against the fraudulent company using their name to cheat people?

  14. SmartenUp

     /  5 October 2010

    Have you never recieved spam from someone that claims to be an old friend, or appears to be using someone’s account you know? I get emails from my “friends” all the time saying “WOW! Try out this new website!” It doesn’t ACTUALLY mean my friends are sending those emails. They’ve simply been hijacked.

    I HIGHLY doubt that Reader’s Digest has nothing better to do than make you buy third party CDs… Can we pretend to be intelligent for just a second here?

    What does Reader’s Digest have to gain by alienating its customer base?

    Now, what does a third party have to gain by advertising under someone else’s name?

    Theeeeere we go, a little cognitive action and we’re well on our way to being actual productive human beings…

  15. Mitesh

     /  8 October 2010

    Thanks, for sharing this imformation. I guess RD is getting email id’s from people by offering them to win gifts for refereing names of their 10 firends. Using this information they send this mails to them and trap them. Request you to not refer your friend’s details to such companies.

  16. Hi guys! I’ve just received 3 envelopes altogether (opened my letter box quite late actually,and over their specify date if wanted to reply back ) + RD mags which is $99 for 12 mths subs which I unintentionally wanted to order in the first place.. I haven’t made any payment yet…Should I pay them? And the best part is I don’t have any credit cards or cheques ..AWWWW!

  17. Btw guys,have u watch the RD Asia 2009 Sweeptakes Ceremony video yet? Is it for real????

  18. miss izza

     /  3 November 2010

    actually i got this RD too, envelopes and car key( i think it was a replica only)..what should i do? i do realise that many things seem so confusing here..moreover, i never subscribe in this RD magazines, so how can i got the chance to become a winner??..can anyone tell me what the best actions i can do?abandone or reply it?my father so excited with this news and he really believed that this contest is real..

  19. chu yunn yin

     /  6 November 2010

    where is “Five-star hotel in kuala lumpur”and what “Gala Lunch”
    please replay me ASAP….
    thank you.

  20. Kim Lee

     /  9 November 2010

    This was poorly constructed & completely predictable. What can really be done tp prevent white collar crimes anyway. Most of you who don’t get caught, will…sooner or later. You website guys & blog people scam everyday, just more discretely. Money, Cash, Equity whatever it is, as long as it has some value to it…can & will be lost whether now or later when we die. Let it go & live! Be of good charity & you will live longer & more prosperous. Let me know…reply…if you can make a rebuttal.

    Kim Lee…

  21. Andii

     /  10 November 2010

    My goodness. I’ve always had weird spam and lottery wins in my junk mail account. Every single email, even from my friends, are directed there, instead of inbox, so I sift thru every mail. Stupid hotmail changed my settings and I never got ard to change them. Couldn’t be bothered. I never open these quick win emails since they’re from unheard of companies and businesses. I would have expected RD to be trustworthy though.

    Just got 2 letters in the snail mail this wk. Had a hunch it was a scam in the first place anw. Numerous sites and experiences of others from years ago further confirms scam! So glad I came online. Refused to read what RD says on their own web. Would have been nice though. $200000. Would use it for uni fees. If I can make it uni next yr…

    Ugh. Can’t the S’pore govt just fine or do whatever to RD and put a stop to this.

  22. ROBERT SONICH

     /  26 November 2010

    it started before last september from readers digest sweepstakes saying i absolutely won $2,500,000.00 ,but they wanted me to go to western union and send them a money gram for $2500,00 to a address in calif. we went around in circles when i told them that i would not do that , i told them this is a scam and hung up, now 2 months later they are calling me up again saying the samething. so i told them to bring the check , then well go to my bank and get it settled and they said they have to abide by the rules and coudn’t do it that way, then i said no way in hell am i sending you people $2500.00 in cash and i told this person to quit calling me.
    he still called after 2 days later and i hung up.

  23. ROBERT SONICH

     /  26 November 2010

    can anyone give me a comment on this?

  1. RE: YOUR PAYMENT NOTIFICATION | SpamPocket.com
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 293 other followers

%d bloggers like this: