While it sounds tempting, malicious data collectors are all too often hiding behind big-name brands’ high-value coupons. This is how you can spot the scam.
How often has a stranger handed you a $500 note? Probably never. But things are different in the virtual world, where it’s swimming in $500 notes. And there’s no holding back the tide flooding your messaging inboxes either. “BEST BUY $500! Congratulations! Click here to see if you’re the #mainwinner of our big prize draw!” This, or something like this, is how the great news reads that pops up unannounced in your email inbox. Big-name suppliers and famous brands lure you in with fantastic cash prizes. And sometimes there’s even an #iPhone, a coffee maker, or some other high-value gadget on top of all this. Can we actually all be winners?
Malicious trick instead of big win
Those who give in to the craving and want to take part end up on a webpage where they need to enter their personal details such as their name and email address. At this stage, the alarm bells should well and truly be ringing. If you enter a competition such as this, you’ve lost out twice: Not only does the apparent main prize definitely not exist, but instead you get all the more unwanted ads on every conceivable channel. And in the worst case, the recipient gets a virus when clicking on the competition page, which can unleash huge damage on the PC or smartphone. Some swindlers also try to extract big bucks from the “winner” as they need to call a premium-rate number, often costing many dollars per minute, to redeem their coupon. Currently, there’s an apparent shopping coupon from the German supermarket chain Aldi worth €450 waiting to be claimed by calling one of these numbers.
How to spot a fake coupon
The devil is in the detail with (almost) all fake coupons – or in these cases in the small print. If you read it, you’ll realize that – in our example, the supermarket – hasn’t the slightest thing to do with the promotion. The operator isn’t even who it appears to be. There, hidden away in print so small you can hardly read it you’ll see something like “Walmart is not the operator or sponsor of this competition and is not in any commercial relationship with the operator.” Real coupons don’t include wording like this.
Why you shouldn’t give your details
Why all this effort? Competition scammers are on the hunt for as many addresses they can get their hands on, which they then sell on for big bucks. And what’s really cheeky, on the apparent competition site you can complain about the ad you’ve received. All the angry user has to do is enter his or her email address, cellphone number, and address. But this is just another trick used by the malicious data collectors because if you enter your details here and send them, just like with the competition, the scammers end up getting real, fully verified data absolutely free – thank you very much.
3 golden rules for coupon promotions
- Rule 1: You’ve been promised big prizes, but you’ve never entered the competition? This alone should make you suspicious.
- Rule 2: Never click on peculiar links for prizes or discounts in texts or emails. Don’t click on them either if a friend sent them to you. Now and again, hackers can send suspect text messages to contacts via hacked cellphones.
- Rule 3: Ignore the message and delete it straight away. Also, warn your friends and acquaintances about such messages.