Security software vendor AppRiver this week is warning of a new phishing campaign that is using a $250 cash reward from fast-food giant McDonald's as a bogus incentive to extract customers' most sensitive personal information.

In a blog posting titled "Fillet-O-Phish," AppRiver security analyst Troy Gill describes this latest in a long line of socially engineered, survey-driven malware scams that use popular consumer brands like McDonald's, Apple and Coca-Cola as lures to perpetrate identity theft.

In this version, hackers send unsolicited emails that appear to be from McDonald's to thousands of would-be victims. The emails, which appear to be from something called "McDonald's Consulting," urge the recipient to click on an attached link to compete a five-question survey in return for a $250 cash reward.

"Phishing attempts have been making their way across the Internet at record numbers lately," Gill wrote in the posting. "Of course, this is where the black hats are waiting to collect your information for use or possibly for resale."

Once the survey has been submitted – along with all of the victim's personal information – the respondent is then redirected to the real McDonald's corporate website to give victims a false sense of security.

Earlier this month an almost identical phishing scam targeted Coca-Cola customers. That malware campaign offered $150 for a completed "survey" and, according to AppRiver, appears to have been a cut-and-paste job from a previous phishing endeavor because several of the links led to the McDonald's website just as this new campaign does.

AppRiver and other security software vendors urge people to install and update appropriate security applications, never open links or attachments contained in unsolicited emails and to mouse over any links they come across to ascertain exactly where the link will take them before making that fateful click.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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