FTC lawsuit reveals what actually happens if you fall for one of those “Free Gift Card” spam text messages

March 8, 2013

Back in April 2012, The Consumerist reported that around 4.5 billion spam texts were sent to U.S. cell phones in 2011 (“Yeah, and I got about 2 billion of those myself,” I remember thinking).

Yesterday, The Consumerist released an article that gives a little insight into how those soul-crushingly irritating “Free $1,000 Gift Card” spam texts actually work. The good news is: the FTC has 29 people in their legal crosshairs, whom they believe to be responsible for 180 million of those texts. The “meh” news is: what about the other six quadrillion spam texts?

Anyway, for those unlucky enough to fall for the free gift card text scam, here’s a brief rundown of what actually happens:

  1. You’re directed to a website that collects an awful lot of personal information, including medical data in some cases, before you’re allowed to proceed
  2. You are taken to another site that requires participation in a bunch of “offers” before you can get the gift card
  3. This required more personal data, including credit card numbers for “subscriptions” or to actually apply for credit
  4. You’re told you have to get (i.e. trick) three more people into signing up before you can claim your gift card
  5. You never, ever, EVER actually get a free $1,000 gift card, because if spammers actually delivered on their promises, they wouldn’t be spammers.

For the FTC to go after 29 people is a good start, but you know as well as I do there are probably a thousand more involved in these schemes. So if the “Free $1,000 Best Buy Gift Card” texts continue to arrive, just continue to ignore ‘em, like always.


Yet another $1,000 Walmart Gift Card scam

March 22, 2012

I’ve already covered how you’re not getting a $1,000 Walmart Gift Card just for liking a page on Facebook.

Now there’s a text message version of the scam that directs victims to a website that asks for personal information.

At this point, I think we can call out a general identity theft and scam prevention tip, one you can keep in the back of your mind for all time:

You’re probably never going to get a free $1,000 Walmart gift card, ever.

Read that, then read it again. Remember it for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter which communication channel the alleged offer shows up through, it’s a scam.

Facebook or Twitter? Scam.

Email? Scam.

Text message? Same deal.

Phone call? You guessed it.

Pony Express? Scam, but you’d have to admire their dedication, if nothing else.

I suppose there might be a scenario in which you could win a gift card, such as a raffle at your church or other reputable organization. But you have to actively enter to be eligible for those. People don’t just contact you out of the blue to give away massive gift cards. It would be nice if they did, but wishing something is true does nothing to alter the cold, hard facts.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 210 other followers