Scammers pretending to be big companies trick consumers with deals too good to be true.

2 minute read

If you receive a text on your phone with a link to a lucrative pandemic offer, don’t click that link, warns the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Pandemic text scams are on the rise, says the BBB, which has received numerous reports of scammers pretending to be well-known companies offering COVID-19 themed discounts.

“Con artists often offer too-good-to-be true discounts in the hope that price-conscious consumers will jump on these ‘deals’ without doing their research,” says the BBB.

Many pandemic scams perpetrated by imposters are enticing enough to trick even the most scam-savvy consumers. For example, consumers reported receiving this text message from an impersonator claiming to be Verizon: “COVID-19 REFUND. VERIZON COMPANY is giving out $950 to all users of our Verizon service. If yes, kindly text your Verizon.”

Another reported scam impersonated Hulu: “Due to the pandemic, Hulu is giving everyone a free 1-year subscription to help you stay at home.”

If you click on the link to that too-good-to-be-true offer, you may be prompted to log into a “look-alike” website that asks for your login ID and password. Once you type in those credentials, however, the scam goes into full swing. Scammers can use your login information to access your account and even make fraudulent purchases using your saved credit card or bank account payment methods.

Here are four ways to avoid pandemic text message scams, according to the BBB.

Be wary of texts from unknown numbers

When you receive a text from an unfamiliar number, proceed with caution. Many companies communicate with their customers via text messages offering discounts, special promotions, news and updates. However, consumers must first opt in to receive such messages. “If you haven’t given a company permission to text you, it’s probably a scam,” warns the BBB.

Find out: 7 Signs Your Online Soulmate is Out to Scam You 

Never click on links from strangers

Scammers like to send texts with shortened links in the body of the text message so you aren’t able to see where the link will lead. If you click on that link, you may be directed to a dangerous website. The link could also download malware, malicious software that criminals can use to access your personal financial data and accounts, medical records, personal emails, passwords and other sensitive information that can be used for identity theft purposes.

Find out: Watch Out for These 5 Red Flags of a Moving Scam

Contact the company offering the “deal”

Some lucrative offers may be almost impossible to ignore. If that’s the case, don’t click on the link to find out more. Instead, go to the official website of the company purportedly offering a promotion or discount. Then call that company’s customer service number to ask a representative if the offer is legitimate. If the offer is legit, sign up with the customer service agent or find out how to sign up for the promotion on the company’s website.

Find out: 7 Red Flags a Paid Survey May Be a Scam 

Install antivirus software

Pandemic scams can come your way via email, too, so it’s important to protect all your mobile and computer devices with antivirus software. Once you install antivirus software, it will scan for malware, alerting you if a website link in a text or email could be malicious.

Find out: Airfare Scams Grounding Lockdown-Wary Travelers

No company is off-limits

The latest pandemic scam reports to the BBB mention Hulu, Netflix and Verizon. However, scammers may impersonate other companies, too. “If one name stops being effective, they’ll quickly switch to another company,” says the BBB.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC