Want to win a $1,000 Ikea gift card? Last week, 37,000 Facebook users wanted one, too. Only, there wasn’t really a gift card, just several screens that capture personal information and coax victims into signing up for a marketing offer. These marketing offers usually ask users to enter their credit card number to sign up for a product or service. After all that hoop jumping, there was no Ikea gift card. Victims may end up having to cancel the service they signed up for to prevent future credit card charges.
According to MacWorld, Facebook users were “fanning” the Ikea gift card page at a rate of 5,000 per hour before the page was shut down. A spokesperson said Facebook was working on a way to remove these types of scam fan pages.
Anyone who fell prey to the same gave up a lot of personal information. They’re lucky to get away with a little email spam. It’s likely that those “required” marketing offers will result in a credit card charge. The worst-case scenario: the gift card offers are a phishing scam used to get enough information to steal an identity. (I’m thinking the scammers make money by selling personal information and for getting users to sign up for marketing offers.)
How to avoid gift card scams on Facebook (and elsewhere)
Don’t be gullible. These gift cards are too good to be true because they aren’t true. No store is going to give away $500 or $1,000 gift cards to tens of thousands of people. If you see a gift card offer like this online, Facebook or anywhere else, avoid it.
Be smart about what information you give out. Legitimate gift cards are sometimes given away by individual blogs and websites, but in limited quantities and smaller denominations (like $25 or $100). They don’t require you to make a purchase, sign up for an offer, and only need enough information to send your card after you’ve won.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
Watch your credit card statement. If you signed up for a marketing offer, your credit card will probably get charged for the product or service you signed up for. Depending on the offer, you may be able to avoid credit card charges if you cancel the service within a certain amount of time. You can dispute fraudulent charges with your credit card issuer.
Monitor your credit report. You can keep an eye on your credit report for free by ordering one of your annual credit reports every four months. Just make sure you rotate credit bureaus. For example, order Equifax first, then Experian, and TransUnion last. You might also consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. These services range from $10 to $30 a month.
Consider adding a fraud alert to your credit report. A fraud alert informs any business who’s checking your credit report to approve a new application that you may have been a victim of identity theft. These businesses should take additional steps to confirm your identity before granting credit.