Christmas shoppers across the country, including Tennessee, are being targeted by criminals using a new, sophisticated scam involving text messages that appear to be advertising sales and other bargains from well-known stores, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned Thursday.
Unsuspecting shoppers receive a text with an offer to participate in a survey about a recent Black Friday shopping experience. In exchange, the consumer receives valuable coupon, product, or gift card to a well-known store. The survey is typically shown as a limited-time offer, which entices consumers to fill out the survey as soon as they receive it.
Instead, shoppers are taken to a third-party website that will ask for personal information. The BBB said malware could also be downloaded onto the device taking the survey, which could give scammers even more access to personal information.
Dubbed a “phishing” scam, the website offered ways for consumers to spot these types of traps. The BBB advised shoppers to be aware of phony text messages, by looking at the number or email that the message is sent from.
“Before you get too worked up and respond,” the consumer advocacy group wrote, “ask yourself, ‘Did I give this company permission to text me? Did I enter a contest recently? Am I expecting a package? Is it normal for this business to send me messages?’ If an out-of-the-blue offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Overall, the best way to be aware of scams is to conduct research on the company. In addition to details about the text-based messaging scams, the BBB has a “scam tracker” where consumers can look up and report suspected scams in their area. One of the recent scams that were reported in Nashville was a fake money order. The scammer posed as the Aquafina Water Company, and the victim lost $4,450.
Cyber Monday holds a high possibility of phishing scams, according to the KnowBe4 blog. The blog, which focuses on helping companies teach their employees online safety, said that during the holiday season, e-commerce will be up by 18 percent; and these types of criminal activities skyrocket by 80 percent.
KnowBe4 advised consumers to keep themselves safe by only joining known Wi-Fi networks, avoid networks that are misspelled, to be aware of messages about packing shipment changes, to only use trusted shipment websites, and to keep all devices updated on their security measures.
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