I’ve just come across a free $50 Starbucks gift card offer on Facebook. Have you seen it? Has a friend shared it? Or maybe you’ve thanked Starbucks for their generosity in the comments and shared it yourself? Although I’m not much a coffee-drinker (I only drink soya hot chocolate extra hot with no chocolate on the top), I can see it’s appealing for anyone with a coffee habit to support, but I reckon it’s a scam and am off to investigate.
I’ve written before about how to spot a Facebook scam – see the full post here – and this has a number of the telltale signs. The Facebook page claims the giveaway is to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the founding of Starbucks, but a quick Wikipedia check tells me that Starbucks was founded in 1971, which makes it 46, indeed almost 47, years old. I smell not coffee, but a rat.
It’s not impossible, but big corps like Starbucks don’t tend to make this kind of mistake – or indeed this kind of offer – and I am definitely sceptical, but at a quick glance the logo seems pretty plausible. However, when I look more closely at the text I see it says, ‘This Gift Card entitles you to spend up to $50 at any Starbucks coffee in United States.’ Do the words ‘Gift Card’ need capital letters? There are no spelling mistakes as such, but is the copy grammatically accurate? For instance, shouldn’t it say ‘coffee shop’ or ‘coffee house’ and ‘in the United States’? These might be small details, but they’re clues nonetheless.
I certainly have misgivings about whether this is a genuine gift card offer now, but when I click through to register for it my suspicions are confirmed as my security software blocks access to it, telling me in no uncertain terms, ‘It might contain viruses, be used for phishing or be a fraudulent site out to scam you.” If had any doubts before, I don’t now.
This particular scam appears to offer a dollar gift card and is aimed at coffee drinkers in the US, but although the currencies and the gift card, coupon or voucher values may differ, there are many versions of it around and people still fall for it, even when they know better.
I can see one Facebooker’s comment on the Starbucks scam is, “It sounds too good to be true, but worth a shot!” Obviously, I appreciate the pun, but this is no joke. It sounds too good to be true, because it is too good to be true. It’s only worth a shot if you’re prepared to compromise your personal information, including your financial details, and willing to set yourself up as a target for scammers, so please don’t interact and please don’t share. Believe me, the after-effects can be far worse than a bitter taste in your mouth.
You can report scams to Facebook by clicking the three dots next to the like, follow and share buttons on a page or in the right-hand corner of a post. You can also report them to Action Fraud via its online fraud reporting tool.
And if you’ve fallen for a Facebook scam – and in all honesty it’s easy to do and there’s no shame in it – we’d like to hear from you. Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.