Free Gift Card
Free Gift Card Scam: How It Works
(with videos below)
Did you just come across a tempting free gift card or voucher offer on social media, such as $150 or $500 from Starbucks, Footlocker, Walgreens, Sam’s, Amazon, Costco or Target? There are 6 variations of the Free Gift Card Scam, the last one featuring a fake Starbucks apologetic message for the Coronavirus-related store closing. Let’s see.
It’s always nice when a store that you visit often offers free gift cards for your loyalty. As the latest in a series of free gift card scams proves, the allure of getting something for nothing is often the quickest road to getting ripped-off. Recently, big brands such as Target, Starbucks, Costco, Shell, Zara, Windstream, Wal-Mart, Footlocker, or Asda are being used as a front for the latest phishing scams. Let’s take a look at the six variants of this scam:
Variant 1: Starbucks/Costco/Target Gift Card Scam
Watch the video below to see in action the Starbucks/Target Gift Card Scam on Facebook:
Scammers impersonate the coffee shop brand by blasting mass emails, apologizing for store closures due to the COVID-19 and offering a gift card via a link. Well, the link takes the potential victims to a page where they are directed to fill out their personal information
The typical scam (when not COVID-19 related) comes on Facebook or email from crooks claiming to represent Starbucks, Zara, or Costco. “Claim your Free Zara [Starbucks] Voucher Now. Only a few left” is the message you might see posted by one of your Facebook friends. What happens if you click on the link shared with you by one of your friends? You will end up on a webpage encouraging you to share the “offer”, post something nice about Costco/Starbuck/Zara, and like a Facebook page.
What happens is that the scammers behind it are getting direct traffic to websites hosting online surveys, which will in turn earn them an affiliate commission. Indeed, since the webpage you land on tells you that the gift vouchers are in short supply, the encouragement to act quickly rather than think about it brings the crooks serious cash.
Meanwhile, there is a variant of this version of the Gift Card Scam. Here is how it works – watch this video:
Variant 2: Face to Face Deal (with scam caught on camera video)
You might be in a mall, airport, or… in a very good mood when somebody approaches you with a gift card that he or she might need to get rid of. Watch the video below to see in action a face to face gift card scam caught on camera.
Variant 3: Visit a Website, Fill Out a Form
Going back to the gift cards and vouchers, there is a different variation of the scam. Shoppers are receiving emails, purportedly from the supermarket chains mentioned above, offering them gift cards ranging in value from 50 to 1,000 dollars or pounds. The email urges customers to visit a website in order to fill out a form to receive their gift card.
While on the site, victims are giving out their personal identification information, leaving themselves open to identity theft. The gift card, of course, never comes.
Variant 4: Computer Boxes
Along the same lines (survey pages), there is another scam that brings up Dell Computers’ name. Criminals are promoting Facebook posts such as:
“We have an extra 200 boxes of Dell computers that can’t be sold off because they have been unsealed. Therefore we are giving them away. Want one of them? Just SHARE this photo & LIKE our page.”
They say they will choose 200 people completely at random and winners will be notified via inbox message.” Indeed, you will never receive any computer boxes.
Variant 5: Affiliate Earnings
As soon as you click any “Redeem voucher” or “Get Your Gift Card Now” buttons, a new blank page opens, having just one small notification: “Upgrade needed. Please upgrade your mobile to the latest version”. This is a dead giveaway since the whole thing happens on your computer and not on your mobile phone.
However, if you click OK you are taken to a bad design page offering several products for download. This questionable webpage will hit you with offers such as “Get PC to Mobile Free SMS messaging tools” or “Access site for online dictation, voice to text, VOIP, and free ringtones”.
Once you press the ‘Click to install’, you’ll either install malicious software on your computer/phone (leading to loss of personal information and identity theft) or simply install unnecessary programs that you don’t need but place money in scammer’s pockets.
If you look in the browser at the address listed there, you might even see the name of a totally different business/brand. Typically, this is followed by some numbers or an ID code.
What happens is that the scammers create all these fake Free Gift Card campaigns to direct traffic to legitimate websites, which will in turn earn them affiliate commission once you install a product.
Recommended Read: Deepfake: Examples and Dangers
How to Avoid the Gift Card Scam
Large retailers such as Costco, Wal-Mart, Asda, or Target advise their customers that they rarely if ever offer these kinds of deals to customers, and never through unsolicited email campaigns.
The real ones do have marketing campaigns encouraging people to “like” their posts and share them, but giving away $500 vouchers to millions of Facebook users just doesn’t seem right.
If you receive one of these offers or emails, contact the company and verify the deal. Chances are, there is no deal and you’ve saved yourself the pain of identity theft. These sorts of scams are often circulated on Facebook as well. Be advised that companies also do not advertise these deals on Facebook either. It is rare that a consumer gets something for nothing; be aware of this and protect yourself from becoming an easy target.
If you really want to participate in rewards programs and gift cards are your thing, use only legitimate companies. One of the most trustworthy services out there is Swagbucks.com, which is the largest online rewards portal dedicated to helping customers earn gift cards, electronics, and exclusive merchandise. You can visit their website and register for free HERE. They offer a $5 sign-up bonus.
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