In March 2020, Facebook posts offering free coupons supposedly worth $50 in merchandise from the Kroger grocery chain began circulating with the claim that the company was celebrating its anniversary:
Users who clicked on the offer were taken to a non-Kroger website where they were instructed to answer survey questions in order to receive their coupon:
After completing the questionnaire, however, users were then required to click a button to share the “offer” with all their Facebook friends before they could retrieve their coupon. Those who complied by spamming their friends are then allowed to click a “Receive the Coupon” button. However, there was no actual coupon to receive. Like innumerable other “free merchandise” offers on Facebook, this one was a scam. We’ve had many occasions to alert readers to this kind of fraud:
These types of viral “coupon” scams often involve websites and social media pages set up to mimic those of legitimate companies. Users who respond to those fake offers are required to share a website link or social media post in order to spread the scam more widely and lure in additional victims. Then those users are presented with a “survey” that extracts personal information such as email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and even sometimes credit card numbers. Finally, those who want to claim their “free” gift cards or coupons eventually learn they must first sign up to purchase a number of costly goods, services, or subscriptions.
The Better Business Bureau offers consumers several general tips to avoid getting scammed:
- Don’t believe what you see. It’s easy to steal the colors, logos, and header of any other established organization. Scammers can also make links look like they lead to legitimate websites and emails appear to come from a different sender.
- When in doubt, do a quick web search. If the giveaway is a scam, this is likely to reveal an alert or bring you to the organization’s real website, where they may have posted further information.
- Watch out for a reward that’s too good to be true. Businesses typically give out small discounts to entice customers. If the offer seems too good to be true (a $100 voucher or 50% discount) it may be a scam.
- Look for a mismatched subject line and email body. Many of these scams have an email subject line promising one thing, but the content of the email is something completely different.