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TechBuzz: Receive a text with a surprise offer? Don't click that link!

Oct 13, 2021

By Jessica Kapcar, Central Ohio Better Business Bureau

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 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 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 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).

For More Information

Learn more about this kind of scam by reading the BBB Tip on phishing scams. If you’ve been the victim of a similar scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

About BBB

For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has served Central Ohio as a community-based resource, a trusted advisor, and a partner in business. BBB exists to advance Trust in business and believes that businesses who embrace Trust as a core principle in their organization will see that it leads to growth in employees, customers, community, and their bottom line. Through evaluation and Accreditation, education and training, and celebrating great role models, BBB builds a community of like-minded businesses and loyal customers. BBB believes in the power of Trust to grow people, businesses, and communities.

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