Now I Get It: Spotting social media coupon scams

The holiday shopping season is officially in full swing.

While consumers are on the prowl for good deals via their smartphones and computers, scammers are also on the prowl — to steal personal information.

One tactic is impersonating companies through social media. The number of links phishing for personal information on branded social media accounts increased 10% in the third quarter of 2017, according to Proofpoint’s Q3 2017 Quarterly Threat Report.

While 91% of U.S. consumers are aware of online scams that pretend to be trusted companies, two out of five have still fallen victim, according to DomainTools’ 2017 Cyber Monday Phishing Survey.

Here are some red flags:

The consumer is usually required to share the fake coupon with his or her Facebook friends. This increases the number of potential victims.

The consumer is then directed to complete a survey that requires personal information. This increases the risk of identity theft.

When the survey is complete, the consumer may unknowingly be enrolled in a “rewards club” that charges a monthly fee for more fake offers.

And when the consumer clicks on the link to redeem the coupon, there’s a risk that malware may be downloaded to the user’s computer.

How can you spot the coupon scam?

If legitimate companies ask you to complete a survey, it’s typically after you’ve made a purchase. Also, authentic surveys won’t ask for sensitive information.

Before clicking on a coupon, it’s best to do an online search with the offer, along with the word “fraud” or “scam,” to see if it’s a real deal.

Be suspicious of coupons posted by a third party. If the coupon was posted to the retailer’s official Facebook page, it can be trusted. Verified accounts are noted with a blue checkmark.

Pay attention to the source URL of the coupon. Extra dashes and words tacked on to the URL of the retailer’s official website is a red flag. For example: retailer.com-holiday.xyz or retailer-com.xyz are URLs not to be trusted.

Finally, as an overall good rule of thumb, be wary of offers too good to be true — because they likely are.

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