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You are scrolling through your Facebook status updates, and suddenly you find a couple of friends who have become a fan of what looks like free food at Olive Garden. The title of the fan page, “Official Olive Garden Week, Dine In On Us This Week Only,” sounds pretty tasty.

When you go to the fan page, this is what you see:

Olive Garden_Page_2
You become a fan and start clicking away. You eventually get sent to an off-Facebook website that looks like this:

Olive Garden 2nd page

Your $500 gift card is now $100, but that’s still a pretty good deal. Below the field that requires your e-mail address, you are told, “ is not affiliated with Olive Garden® All Olive Garden® trademarks are the property of Olive Garden® and does not, in any way, claim to represent or own any of the Olive Garden® trademarks or rights. Olive Garden® does not own, endorse, or promote or this promotion.”

At this point, hopefully your scam radar is pinging like crazy. If you are still in the hunt, once you type in your e-mail address, you are asked for a bevy of personal information, including your name, address, phone numbers and birthday. This is not something you should be doing.

This scheme looks legitimate. There’s an Olive Garden logo on the Facebook page. There are testimonials in the comments section. “Danny,” for example, wrote, “man still can’t believe this actually worked! Thx.” Of course, clicking on “Danny’s” name doesn’t send you to a person’s page, it stays right on the “giveaway” page.

As of 2:30 on Monday, this Facebook page had 66,140 fans. That’s six times more than the 10,520 fans on the real Olive Garden Facebook page, where free stuff is not given out.

This is the kind of scheme that pops up more and more on the Internet, whether it is free food from a big chain restaurant or a gift card to a big retailer like Wal-Mart. Or, as Mitch Lipka at WalletPop covered last week, IKEA. You might eventually get your gift card, but only after purchasing something, and only after giving a wealth of personal information to an entity you do not know.

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