Text Message Gift Card Scam is Back for the Holidays

December 04, 2012
The gift card text message scam is back with a vengeance this holiday shopping season. Shoppers across the country are reporting receiving spam text messages, called smishing, saying they won pricey gift card.
How the Scam Works:
You receive a text message. When you open it, you are surprised by a message informing you that you've won a Best Buy gift card (or Target, Wal-Mart or other major retailer). You just need to go to a website and enter a PIN, and the card is yours.
The text's URL leads to a website that has the company's colors and logo. It looks authentic with the company's name as the site's sub-domain (example: www.bestbuy.scamwebsite.com).
You are asked to enter the PIN and an email address. Then, you are taken to a form and instructed to fill out your name, cell number, mailing address and answer unrelated personal questions, such as "Are you interested in going back to school?" and "Are you diabetic?" When you reach the page to "claim your gift card," you instead find yourself directed to another site to apply for a credit card.
The texts are just a way to collect personal information for shady advertisers. Scammers often change the store names and cash amounts of the gift cards. A typical text message is below:
"Black Friday Winner #88323! You have WON the Best Buy Gift Card for $1000! Get your prize at WEBSITE now! Use the code 5417."
What Can I Do About Scam Text Messages:    

  • Ignore instructions to text "STOP" or "NO" to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a real, active phone number.
  • Forward the texts to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads). This will alert your cellphone carrier to block future texts from those numbers.
  • If you think your text message is real, be sure it's directing to a web address like Bestbuy.com or Target.com, not www.bestbuy.otherwebsite.com.  
  • And as always, if you think getting a free $1,000 gift card seems too good to be true, it probably is.
For More Information
Learn what your cellphone carrier has to say about stopping spam. Click here for advice from ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.
To find out more about scams, check out the new BBB Scam Stopper.
NOTE: Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and Western Union are BBB Accredited Businesses and/or National Partners.