Cell phones across the U.S. are receiving unexpected text messages offering $1,000 gift cards from stores like Walmart and Best Buy.
Better Business Bureau advises recipients to disregard too-good-to-be-true gifts and solicitations that arrive by short message service or SMS. Similar to phishing emails, smishing text messages aim to steal personal data or dollars with harmful websites or fraudulent return phone numbers.
"You just won a free $1000 Walmart Gift Card, enter "1000" at …"
"Dear Walmart shopper, Congratulations you have just won a $1000 Walmart Gift Card. Click here to claim your gift …"
"You have been randomly selected for a BestBuy gift. Get your $1000 gift card now at …"
According to Walmart, the company will not initiate text messages in exchange for personal information and it is not affiliated with the parties promoting these activities.
Though some text messages may be from real companies - not scammers - be careful with unknown businesses; unless contact information was provided voluntarily, they may have collected phone numbers without permission. If solicited, BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington suggests the following:
Don't take the bait. Frauds often use well-known retailers’ names without permission. If companies are offering high-value goods or gift cards for free, there is probably a catch.
Don't reply. Smishers often send mass-messages to random phone numbers hoping for replies so they can reuse numbers for other schemes. Delete messages immediately.
Don't call back. Scammers may attempt to pry for data over the phone.
Don't click links. Fraudulent websites could contain harmful downloads or viruses that infect phones or other devices. Web addresses may be masked to look like other sites.
Don't enter personal information. Avoid giving out details to "claim" winnings. Never release credit card numbers, provide bank account information or wire money to pay fees, taxes or shipping costs for "free" items or prizes.
Provide contact information with caution, as it may result in unwanted solicitations and not-so-free trials; always read companies’ privacy policies first.
Visit bbb.org, ftc.gov and fcc.gov for more advice on avoiding smishing schemes.