BBB warns consumers of social media retail coupon scams amid COVID-19 pandemic
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - As people continue to spend more time at home and on social media, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about scammers offering fake retail coupons to steal personal information.
BBB officials said these counterfeit coupons are often found on Facebook and some of the most recent popular fake offers are for Bath & Body Works, Costco, Aldi, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s.
They added the coupons often offer $100 or more in free merchandise, especially if the link is shared on social media.
The coupons will oftentimes take people to a third-party website. To receive the coupon, they ask for personal information, which results in downloading viruses or malware and the person never receives the coupon, according to the BBB.
“We’re all looking for bargains these days, especially with so many of us being out of work or working part-time. Everyone is looking for a deal and that’s what scammers know," Renee Wikstrom, director of communications and events for the Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina, said. "So if you are looking for coupons and something appears on your social media screen because we’re all spending more time on social media because we’re not out with our friends, co-workers and families as much, check the source. Go to the actual business, to their actual website, or all that actual business to find out if that coupon is valid.”
The Better Business Bureau offers several tips for spotting them:
- Be skeptical. The better the deal looks, the more likely it’s fake. It is easy for scammers to steal logos and images of established businesses to create counterfeit coupons.
- Check directly with the source. To verify the legitimacy of an offer, visit the company’s website to look for the coupon or directly contact the company.
- Look at the expiration date. Most coupons have one. The lack of one is an indication that the coupon may be phony. Remember, coupons for free items usually expire quicker than others.
- Verify the source. If a coupon comes to you in an email, hover your mouse over the link (without clicking) and the URL destination address should appear. If that address looks like a random assortment of number and letters, do not click on it.
- Check to see if the website is secure. There should be an “s” after “http” in the URL to indicate it’s a secure site. No “s” may mean it’s a phishing attempt to get your information or to install malware on your computer.
- Do a web search. Searching by the offer, business name and the word “scam” can often bring up information showing which offers are fake.
- Don’t share your personal information. Legitimate businesses do not ask for private information such as credit card numbers or bank accounts for coupons or giveaways. Any promotional offer that asks for personal information is almost always a scam.
If you do fall for a scam you can report it on the BBB Scam Tracker.
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