How Smart Are You? IQ Test Scams Facebook Users


Like many people, Leanne Saylor has a bit of a competitive streak.

So, in April, when a pop-up ad on Facebook told her that two friends had taken an online IQ test, she figured she'd try to best them.

"Of course, in my infinite wisdom, I thought, yeah, I can beat that test," the 53-year-old from Cincinnati said self-deprecatingly.

After answering a series of questions, she was told to key in her cell phone number to get a text message with the score. So she did -- a total of three times.

The test finally told Saylor that her intelligence quotient score was indeed higher than her friends'. But a month later, when her cell phone bill arrived from AT&T, she said she didn't feel too bright at all.

She learned that, unwittingly, she had subscribed to three different cell phone text messaging services for a total of $44 a month. In the fine print on the quiz, it said that monthly fees would be applied.

"I'm really fairly computer savvy," she said. "I felt so stupid later when I figured it out."

Mobile Marketing Industry Acknowledges Problem

Saylor, who owns a bed and breakfast, had only been a Facebook member for three days when she took the test. She said she clicked on it because she believed that her friends, Kathi and Ray, had also taken the quiz.

She had no idea, however, that the quiz was actually a misleading ad meant to lure users by implying that friends had already participated.

But when she called AT&T to contest the charges, the customer-service representative said it wasn't unfamiliar territory for them. After Saylor explained that she didn't intend to subscribe to the services, AT&T credited her account and blocked further charges.

Although mobile marketing experts say what happened to Saylor isn't common, they acknowledge that it is a problem and one that needs addressing.

"It's an unfortunate reality that these things do happen," said Mike Wehrs, CEO and president of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). "They are not as common as people want to believe. But they do happen."

The MMA, he said, works with cell phone carriers, mobile content providers, the marketers and the Federal Trade Commission on policies and best practices that keep up with changes in technology.

Dynamic Industry Hard to Police

But, he emphasized, because of the dynamic nature of the industry, it's easy to rake in money quickly and unethically and make off before the authorities catch up. The volume of transactions made is so high and the time needed to execute them is so fast that it's difficult to police content, he said.

In situations like Saylor's, he said, it's the affiliate marketers at the bottom of the food chain who orchestrate the scams.

But the industry has identified this as a significant problem, he said.

"They recognize that if this doesn't get checked it is possible that it could grow. And if it grows, it could give a black eye to the industry," he said.

For its part, a spokeswoman told, AT&T has put safeguards in place to protect users when they are considering purchasing down-loadable options, such as ring tones, wallpapres, games or other content. Users must opt-in twice -- and take two actions -- to indicate that they want to receive the services.

It also said that third-party providers must make pricing and directions for unsubscribing clear to users.

But if customers want to dispute charges, as Saylor did, AT&T said it reviews complaints and makes billing adjustments on a case-by-case basis.

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