CHICAGO, March 8, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An increasing number of Facebook posts promising free gift cards and coupons have started to reappear following last spring's string of similar coupon-related scams. These recent scams are part of at least 300 billion fake coupons annually posted online to steal consumers' hard-earned money and personal information. A blog post recently published by AARP is helping individuals to stay safe by identifying the common tactics used to get people to turn over sensitive information.
"With the number of people actively using social media daily, it's not surprising that scams have started to make their way onto these platforms," said AARP Communications Manager Gerardo Cardenas. "Scammers have grown smarter as technology has advanced, so it's important for consumers to know the signs when looking into coupons that seem too good to be true."
The offers and spoofed companies frequently change—Home Depot, Costco, Amazon, Pizza Hut, and various supermarket chains—but there are certain red flags in each scam that remain consistent and that consumers should look out for:
- You are typically required to pass the fake coupon onto your Facebook friends to expand the pool of potential victims of what comes next.
- You are directed to complete a survey, which usually requests sensitive personal information, including phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth and maybe even financial accounts. This not only opens the door to more unwanted spam and robocall rip-offs but also boosts your risk of identity theft.
- When you complete the survey, you may also be enrolled in a hard-to-cancel "rewards club" that charges a monthly fee for additional fake offers.
- If you click a link for more details or to redeem the offer you risk downloading malware onto your computer.
Most online coupons you find on social media require a number of these steps. So how are you to know which coupons to trust and which to ignore entirely?
- It is unlikely for businesses to offer coupons for free vacations or triple-digit savings—but if they do it will not be done on social media. If an online coupon is legitimate, it will be on the company's website.
- Legitimate companies may ask you to complete a survey, but typically only after you have already made an online or in-store purchase. And they will never ask for sensitive information like a Social Security number or bank accounts.
- Before clicking on a coupon, check it out with an online search of the offer with words like "scam" or "fraud" and see what pops up.
For additional information on new scams targeting everyday consumers, head over to AARP's blog at blog.aarp.org.
SOURCE AARP Illinois