Press-Republican

Business

December 17, 2012

Text-message scam making the rounds

MARLBORO, Mass. — The gift-card text-message scam is back with a vengeance this holiday shopping season, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Shoppers across the country are reporting receiving spam text messages, called smishing, saying they have won a pricey gift card.

THE SCAM

How the scam works: You receive a text message. When you open it, you are surprised by a message informing you that you’ve won a Best Buy gift card (or Target, Wal-Mart or other major retailer). It says you just need to go to a website and enter a PIN, and the card is yours.

The text’s URL leads to a website that has the company’s colors and logo. It looks authentic, with the company’s name as the site’s sub-domain (example: www.bestbuy.scamwebsite.com).

You are asked to enter the PIN and an email address. Then, you are taken to a form and instructed to fill out your name, cell number, mailing address and answer unrelated personal questions, such as “Are you interested in going back to school?” and “Are you diabetic?”

When you reach the page to “claim your gift card,” you instead find yourself directed to another site to apply for a credit card.

The texts are just a way to collect personal information for shady advertisers. Scammers often change the store names and cash amounts of the gift cards.

A typical text message: “Black Friday Winner #88323! You have WON the Best Buy Gift Card for $1000! Get your prize at WEBSITE now! Use the code 5417.”

WHAT TO DO

The Better Business Bureau advises people who get these messages to:

▶ Ignore instructions to text “STOP” or “NO” to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a real, active phone number. 

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