Nearly everyone loves finding a great deal – including computer hackers and 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, the Better Business Bureau’s BBB Scam Tracker has seen numerous reports of scammers impersonating well-known companies and offering COVID-19 themed discounts.
How the “Special Offer” scam works
You receive a text message from a large, well known company, claiming that the company would like to help people out by offering them an amazing deal due to the pandemic. These special offers range from free or discounted services to gift cards and even cash.
Examples of 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 one-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]”
Unfortunately, these messages are not really from any of these companies. They come from professional online scammers who want to steal your personal information. After clicking the link, you will be prompted to log in to a lookalike website that scammers use to get your real login ID and password. With that information, scammers can access your accounts and 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 company name stops being effective, they’ll quickly switch to another company.
How to avoid text message scams
Here are a few ways to avoid being scammed-
• Treat all messages from unknown senders with caution. If you receive a message from a number you don’t recognize, be careful. Many legitimate 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 inside the body of their text message. If you click the link, you could be directed to a dangerous website, or you could unknowingly download malware onto your device.
• Research and 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, email them, or just call them to inquire about it. The company will 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.