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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org – 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.