Everyone loves a deal – including scammers. Con artists often offer too good to be true discounts in the hope that price-conscious consumers will jump on these “deals” without doing their research. Recently, BBB Scam Tracker has seen numerous reports of scammers impersonating well-known companies and offering discounts, some of which are COVID-19 themed.
How the Scam Works
You receive a text message from a large, reputable company. The message claims that, due to the pandemic, the company would like to help people out by offering them an amazing deal. These range from free or discounted services to gift cards and cash.
For example, consumers reported receiving the following text messages using this ploy:
- “COVID-19 REFUND. VERIZON COMPANY is giving out $950 to all users of our Verizon service, If yes kindly text your Verizon”
- “Due to the pandemic, Hulu is giving everyone a free 1-year subscription to help you stay at home. Get yours here [link].
- "AT&T... Sorry for the coverage issues... Here's a little gift: [link]"
Other texts claim to be Walmart, Amazon, Costco, USPS and others. Of course, these messages don’t really originate with that company. They come from impersonators who hope to steal your personal information. If you click the link, you may be prompted to log into a lookalike website that scammers use to get hold of your login ID and password. With that information, scammers can access your accounts and even make purchases using your saved payment methods.
While the latest BBB Scam Tracker reports mention Hulu, Netflix, and Verizon, watch out for scammers impersonating other companies too. If one name stops being effective, they’ll quickly switch to another company.
How to avoid Text Message Scams
- Treat messages from unknown senders with caution. If you receive a message from a number you don’t recognize, be careful. Many companies engage in SMS marketing, but keep in mind that consumers must opt in to receive messages. If you haven’t given a company permission to text you, it’s probably a scam.
- Don’t click on links from strangers. Scammers often send shortened links that don’t let you see where they really lead in the body of their text message. If you click the link, you could be directed to a dangerous website, or you could download malware onto your device.
- Confirm deals directly with the company before you accept. If you are really hoping the deal is legitimate, go to the company’s official website and send them an email, or call to inquire. The company can let you know if the deal is real or not.
- Install antivirus software on your computer and mobile devices. This kind of scam can come from text messages or emails, so make sure all your electronics are protected. Antivirus software can scan for malware and alert you before you open a malicious website link.
- Alert the company. It will help them fight the problem. AT&T and Verizon are asking consumers to forward suspicious messages to 7726 (SPAM).