There’s been a recent spate of WhatsApp promotions offering high-value vouchers and gift cards for a number of high-street supermarkets and retailers, including Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Topshop. And who wouldn’t be tempted by a free £250 voucher for their favourite store? Sounds great, doesn’t it, but guess what? These promotions are scams. There is no voucher and if you respond to the message you could be compromising your personal information and financial security.
The WhatsApp scam messages appear to have been sent by someone in your contacts and at first glance they look pretty plausible. However, if you click on the link to claim the voucher, you’re taken to a fake website, where you’re asked to complete a survey and fill in personal information, including your bank details. According to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, the fake site can also collect personal information from your device by installing cookies that track you or adding browser extensions that show you ads you don’t want.
At Prizeology we’re committed to highlighting scams like the WhatsApp supermarket voucher ones, which is one of the reasons why the National Trading Standards Scams Team recently made me a Scambassador. We need to increase awareness of scams among consumers, but scams are also a major issue for the promotions industry, so we need to encourage promoters to ensure that it’s really easy to tell the difference between a scam and a genuine promotion. For 2018 I’m putting together a national campaign focusing on this, so if you work in the promotions industry and want to be involved, do get in touch.
It isn’t always easy to spot a scam – anyone can fall for one and there’s no shame if you do – but if you suspect a message isn’t a genuine promotion, have a careful look at it first as poor grammar and spelling are often an easy giveaway that it’s a scam. If you’re still not sure, don’t click, but type the link address in manually. If it’s a scam, the page won’t exist on the retailer’s site. As always, the advice is, if you haven’t requested a link, don’t click on it, even if it appears to come from a trusted source. You should also install security software on your device and keep it up-to-date. And delete that message immediately. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. It’s a cliché for a reason and if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
By the way, if you’ve been a victim of the Whatsapp scam or another fraud or cyber crime, you can report it by calling Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or using its online fraud reporting tool.
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.