Bogus Text Message Prize Offers

If you've ever gotten a text message on your cell phone telling you that you've won a free prize, you're not alone. During the past year, the FTC has gotten tens of thousands of complaints about unsolicited text messages.

Many of the messages claim that you've won a free prize, and feature a link to a website. If you click on the link, you reach a site that supposedly offers the free merchandise. But to get the "free" prize, you have to reveal a lot of personal information — and maybe some money, too. Some of the sites require you to sign up for dietary supplements, skin care products, book of the month clubs, credit cards, government grants, or identity theft protection — most of which require you to pay a shipping fee and cancel a membership within a certain time to avoid being charged monthly.

That you have to share personal information and pay isn't disclosed until you've been drawn into the scam.

Bottomline: "Free" merchandise websites rarely live up to their promises, if ever. Need proof? The FTC recently brought eight cases against 29 defendants who sent illegal spam texts and falsely claimed that prizes or gifts were free.

Mostly, the consumers who dealt with the scam artists involved in the FTC cases never got the free gift they were promised. Many people abandoned the websites once they realized they hadn't won anything and that the offer for "free" merchandise required them to pay.

But the scam still worked because most people clicked into the website, entering personal information or completing some offers — and generating income for the free merchandise website operators before they quit. The website operators sold the consumers' information to other marketers and earned commissions from those running the offers advertised on the sites.

When you see a spam text offering a gift, a gift card, or a 'free' service, do yourself a favor:

  • Delete any text that asks you to confirm or provide personal information: Legitimate companies don't ask for information like your account numbers or passwords by email or text.
  • Don't reply, and don't click on links in the message: Links can install malware on your computer and take you to spoof sites that look real but whose purpose is to steal your information.
  • For more tips...
Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Comments

These types of messages are in my inbox every to every other day. They are easy for me to spot just by the subject alone. DELETE!!

Thank you.These are not only informative but extremely helpful

Publishers Clearing House websites are being hit by scam artists. I just fell victim to them it is Louis Milan Fine Jewelry 818-369-7447. They entered into PCH's website Search and Win stating that you are an instant winner and you have won a piece of jewelry or watches and all you had to do was pay 5.99 shipping and you would receive one of these items. I paid the 5.99 using this site assuming they were PCH and obtained the piece of jewelry for being an instant winner. Well 10 days later they hit my account for 98.00 and no one answers their number of 818-369-7447 they are scamming consumers this was reported to bank of america and publishers clearing house

ugh i get texts from "best buy" or "walmart" telling me that i have won a card for like $100 or more but i just ignore them. usually its user mistake the easiest way for someone to get their stuff stolen both in the physical and cyber world. JUST USE COMMON SENSE PEOPLE!!!

I just got a phone call that the caller ID said the number was private. The person had a heavy foreign accent and I had a hard time understanding but finally understood that he was with the medicare office in Wash. DC and wanted to send me a new medicare card and wanted me to verify my address and Phone #. The next question was what is the name of my bank! If he was going to send me a medicare card why would he need the name of my bank? I hung up on him.

OMG !!!!! there's a company that calls 3 time a day about lowering credit card interest asked them to TAKE ME OFF CALL LIST I am IN BANKRUPTCY hour later they call again

the people from the credit card scams call me constantly they call from different parts of the country, I called cable vision and reported the phone numbers, they gave me gov number to call I transposed the number which was 1 888-832-1222 instead of 1 888-382-1222 and they wanted to offer a free 100.00 gift card from wal-mart or target how convient to be 1 number off from the gov do not call list.

I've been getting similar messages to this (robo-dial/ robo-text) message. Would like to know how these can be reported and crack down on these criminals. from text account 262409@rr.com: "This is to inform you the following: 4418 58** **** **** Achieve Acct Status: Unattended Issue. Call xxx xxx xxxx" (phone number changed)

3 Problems with that text: 1)a REAL creditor will not list the first numbers, 2)I have no Achieve Account, 3) I always initiate calls via well-known numbers, and never via the internet when a message similar to this is received from a valid bank

You can file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint. This database is accessed by civil and criminal law enforcement in the U.S. and the complaints are used in investigations. 

I got a text on my cell phone telling me my cell phone was picked as the 1.2 mil winner gave me a reference number and said it was run by Powerball and to respond by email only!

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