A new scam text message is circulating, claiming recipients won an iPhone 5 or a $1,000 Wal-Mart prize. The message contains a link for users to click in order to claim their prize.
BBB warns that this is a scam — clicking the link may download harmful software to your mobile device or computer. Keep in mind that your smart phone is basically a hand-held computer, and therefore susceptible to viruses, malware and spyware in the same way your laptop and desktop computers are.
More often, text messages like these — including claims you have won merchandise or gift cards from popular stores and brands — are phishing scams. Clicking the link leads you to a form that asks you to provide your personal information so in order to claim your prize. The scammers either use that information to open fraudulent accounts in your name or sell it to others.
Remember that you cannot win a prize in a contest you never entered. Even if the organization or contest is well-known, be suspicious of any callers, emails, text messages or other contact that requires you to give out your personal information, such as bank account, Social Security, or credit card numbers.
If you did enter a contest recently, go “off the call” before providing any information. Find the organization’s contact information on your own and call or write to confirm that you are actually a winner.
In addition, keep the following tips in mind:
- Never reply to an email that is asking you for personal information. Even if the email appears to be from a trusted source, this may be a phishing attack, where someone is trying to illegitimately obtain your personal or financial information. Delete the email immediately.
- Do not click on any links from sources that you are unfamiliar with. This may be a phishing attack, where someone is trying to redirect you to a website that may automatically trigger malicious code and infect your computer. If you really want to check out a link sent to you by email, research the company or individual first to confirm they are trustworthy. If so, then manually retype the link into a secure web browser.
- Keep anti-spyware, anti-virus and anti-spam software up to date. While consumers are ultimately responsible for keeping personal and financial information private, these technologies are designed to help keep phishing attacks at a minimum.
- Never give personal information over the phone. Take the time to verify what the caller is claiming by visiting BBB.org to look up the organization they are representing.
- A true sweepstakes will not make its winner pay fees. Many scams involve mailing or wiring a portion of the prize back for fees or taxes. Legitimate prizes do not come with processing fees and taxes are paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after winnings are collected.