In February 2018, internet users began reporting a new Walmart gift card scam in the form of a viral message that typically read something along the lines of, "Text WALMART to 83361 and claim a free Walmart gift card."
On Facebook, the messages followed a formula — a greeting followed by the text scam and a smiling emoji. This suggests the involvement of bots, and that some users' Facebook accounts may have compromised. At least one person whose account posted the scam has subsequently said that the message was posted without their knowledge to every group of which they are a member:
Almost all the Facebook posts we found came with photographs of food to give a false impression that the "gift card" has allowed its recipients to splash out on a bounty of Walmart products. In reality, we were able to confirm that many of these images are taken from other sources — some from years ago — and used to add credibility to the scam.
This particular scam is similar to previous insidious hoaxes relating to free Walmart gift cards. On its web site, the company has this advice for anyone who receives suspicious or unsolicited communications:
Don't respond or reply to an email, phone call, or text message that:
- Requires you to supply personal or account information directly in the email
- Requires you to click on a link to provide more personal or account information
- Threatens to close or suspend your account if you do not take immediate action
- Invites you to answer a survey that asks you to enter personal or account information
- States that your account has been compromised or that there has been third-party activity on your account, then asks you to enter or confirm your personal or account information.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed by telephone that the "83361" offer was a scam, and "not legitimate."