AG Gansler Warns Consumers About Retail Text Message Scam
Phony promise of large gift card is attempt to get user's personal information
Baltimore, MD ( Dec. 5, 2012) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is warning Maryland consumers not to fall for a widespread text message scam that falsely suggests recipients have won a large gift card to one of several retail stores.
"Scams like these tend to pop up around the holidays when consumers are shopping more and looking for bargains," said Attorney General Gansler. "But you should never give away personal information in order to redeem a prize. Simply delete any message from someone you do not know and remember the old saying, 'If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.'"
The text message scam, which has been reported across the country, notifies a recipient that they have won a gift card to a well-known retail store and instructs the individual to go to a website and enter a provided code to claim a gift card of varying amounts, usually $500 or $1,000. The site, which appears genuine by using the store's name in the web address and often uses the store logo and colors, asks for personal information, such as a birthday, email address, credit card account, bank account number or other identifying information that could leave victims vulnerable to identity theft. Legitimate contests will never ask for that type of information. (Another form of the scam asks consumers to simply reply to the text with certain information, which you should also never do.) The text messages come from different telephone numbers.
The "smishing" scam - a combination of "SMS" or Short Message Service, and "phishing," the act of fraudulently acquiring information through e-mail - could be received by tens of thousands of mobile phone users nationwide. Although it is difficult to prevent this type of fraudulent activity, consumers are advised to contact their cell phone service provider and report the incident.
Users should also only visit websites with "https" in the URL, which means it is secure, register all phone numbers with the federal Do Not Call List and consider downloading a spam blocker phone application. Consumers should only give their personal information to people they know and only for legitimate purposes.
Individuals who think they have been solicited with this scam or any other suspicious scheme can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/complaint.htm or contact the consumer hotline at 410-528-8662 or 1-888-743-0023 for more information. Consumers who believe they are victims of identity theft should call the Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit at 410-576-6491 or learn more information at http://www.oag.state.md.us/idtheft/index.htm.