The on-going pandemic-related stress surely must be worth a free-gift, bonus or some sort of discount somewhere.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing an onslaught of texts promoting fake COVID-19 themed discounts and deals.
The Better Business Bureau mentions two specific scams that are hitting consumers in September.
There’s the text pretending to be from Hulu. “Due to the pandemic, Hulu is giving everyone a free one-year subscription to help you stay at home.” All you have to do is click on a link, which of course, will lead to all sorts of trouble.
And there’s the text pretending to be from Verizon. “COVID-19 REFUND. VERIZON COMPANY is giving out $950 to all users of our Verizon service.” Again, let’s think about this a bit. Why would Verizon or any company be giving out hundreds of dollars in refund cash? Yep, it’s a scam.
More:You don’t have to text anyone to get your child tax credit
More:AT&T is not texting about how to get money after being ‘overcharged’
The texts are scammers sending
Texting is a turning into a hot way for scammers to entice harried consumers and catch them off guard.
Across the country, there have been media reports about fake texts that promise $500 for low income home energy assistance, an extra $1,400 in government stimulus money, more scammers pretending to be from Amazon, and phony text messages from the Department of Motor Vehicles in some states promising refund cash of $600 or more.
As the holiday shopping season heats up, consumers would be wise to once again watch out for fake texts from UPS, FedEx and the United Postal Service, too. Some phony texts might alert you to an “overdue” package or request money for delivery of a package.
Texts could be the new thing, as phone services block more illegal robocalls. Caller ID authentication — which was to be in place for big carriers by June 30 — is designed to make it easier for phone companies to block illegal robocalls in the first place or label them as likely spam.
More:Toy makers: There’s going to be a major shortage this holiday season
More:Robocalls may start to fade amid new requirements to block calls, con artists
Why we’re vulnerable
Scammers could be tracking our habits, too, knowing that we’re texting more and very often extremely distracted when we’re doing so.
AT&T noted in an alert online: “These days you may be using your cell phone more for texting than for making calls. So, you’re probably accustomed to getting short, brief texts that sometimes don’t make sense or come from companies or organizations.”
The AT&T alert highlighted winning a prize in an Earpods raffle.
In some cases, the scammers even will text you with a so-called warning about potential fraud on your account.
Here’s a key tip: “If you are busy,” AT&T warns, “don’t do anything with the message until you can really evaluate the authenticity.”
The Federal Trade Commission, which has been tracking virus-related scams, noted that texting has turned out to be the third most popular way for scammers to connect with consumers.
The FTC noted that 16,237 fraud reports relating to COVID-19 and stimulus money involved consumers who received an offer, alert or other message via text.
The No. 1 method of contact was email with 18,466 fraud reports from Jan. 1, 2020 through Sept. 16, followed by scam-driven websites or apps with 16,888 fraud reports.
Texts can look much more authentic if they appear to be sent from big, well-known names — such as Netflix, Hulu, Verizon and AT&T.
Consumers told me that they’ve received texts pretending to be from AT&T that state: “We accidentally overcharged your phone bill last month.”
Texts might prove useful to scammers because, well, they might look harmless. But experts say you just want to delete those text messages immediately.
The BBB notes: “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.”
Anyone who remains hopeful of a deal should go directly to the company itself. Look up the company’s official website or a statement you have from the company and make a call or send an email.
The FTC notes that scammers send fake text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information — things like your password, account number, or Social Security number.
Once they get that information, the FTC says, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. You can report any suspicious text message to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
You definitely do not want to mindlessly respond to a text that appears to be from your bank, as fraudsters are increasingly savvy with these types of texts.
While the pandemic-related discounts are popular now, consumer watchdogs warn that there are a variety of pitches used by scammers sending a text.
Maybe, it’s the promise of free gift cards or coupons, low-rate credit cards or even some promise to pay off your college debt.
Or a scammer pretending to be your bank could text saying that they’ve noticed some suspicious activity on your account.
Remember, the FTC warns that clicking on some of these messages might lead to installing harmful malware on your phone that steals your personal information without you realizing it.
Again, the scammers will try any story to convince consumers that this text could be the real deal that they so much deserve during stressful times.
ContactSusan Tompor via email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter@tompor. To subscribe, please go to freep.com/specialoffer. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.