By Kelly Sargent
Have you been getting text messages notifying you that such-and-such company has a “reward” or gift card for you? Paul and I have been getting one from “ATT “ (notice it’s not AT&T) about every other day. The message says, “ATT Free Msg: November bill is paid. Thanks, Here’s a little gift for you: . . . “ There are more words after that, but I never click on it to see what else it says because I know it’s a scam.
For awhile I was getting frequent text messages supposedly from Home Depot offering me a “reward”. My guess is that the perpetrators targeted me using the Home Depot name because we had made a large purchase from the company some months before, probably in their minds making it more likely that I'd fall for it.
Speaking of gift cards, the Better Business Bureau issued a bulletin warning about gift cards scams — not the offer of a ‘free’ one as we were just discussing, but ones that are available for purchase either online or in stores.
Here are their tips and cautions:
Beware of obscure websites advertising gift cards for popular retailers at steep discounts. These websites may be using these offers to steal payment card numbers or other personal information. Instead, go directly to the merchant and purchase a card from them.
Also be wary of websites that offer to check your gift card's balance. Some websites that claim to check your gift card balance are really a means of stealing money off your card. These sites ask for your card’s ID number and PIN or security code, and use the information to drain the money off your card.
It you're buying a physical gift card, look carefully at the packaging for any tears, wrinkles, or other indications of tampering, and see if the PIN is exposed. Thieves are known to remove gift cards from the display rack and record the numbers associated with that card, including the activation PIN. If anything looks suspicious, it’s best to take a different card and turn in the compromised card to the store’s customer service desk.
Treat a gift card like cash. If it's lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. Most issuers have toll-free telephone numbers printed on the card or available online to report a lost or stolen card.
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