(WICHITA, Kan.) — Most of us would be eager to claim an extra $1,000 this time of year. Unfortunately, text messages alerting you that you've won a free gift card are not legitimate.
The text may be similar to this: "Black Friday Winner #88323! You have WON the Best Buy Gift Card for $1000! Get your prize at WEBSITE now! Use the code 5417."
Viewers have called our newsroom about the text messages. It's an increasingly common scam this time of year, according to Denise Groene, state director of the Better Business Bureau. She says the texts will claim to be from a major retailer, like Best Buy, Target or Wal Mart. The recipient is directed to a web site that appears to belong to the company, but is really part of the scam.
"They could use the information to steal your identity, they could sell it on the black market for somebody else to use for their informational purposes," Groene says. When recipients of the text message visit the web site, they're subjected to pages and pages of ads, but nowhere to claim the gift card. They may also be asked to give their email address, phone number, and other information. "It's information that you do not want to be giving to anyone," Groene says.
Some versions of this scam direct the person to a credit card application. None of the people receiving the text message were able to claim the gift card they supposedly "won."
There are a few ways to respond if you've gotten one of these messages. Do not respond to the message. The message may say responding with a message like "stop" or "no" will keep you from getting future messages, but it could actually be telling scammers that your number is active. If you do receive a spam message, forward it to 7726 ("SPAM" on your keypad). That will alert your phone service provider to block future messages from that number.
If you're unsure if an offer is credible, you can contact the retailer directly. Go to the store's web site or call the store and ask if they are offering any deals or contests via text message. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau if you're not sure about an offer, or check their website by clicking here.