UPDATE: Target has officially confirmed that they aren’t affiliated with this $1000 gift card text scam, or any other online Gift Redemption Program. Read their statement and find out what to do if you get this text message in our follow-up post.
Walmart $1000 Gift Card, BestBuyWin.net, BestBuyContests.com and now TargetContests.com! The weather might be getting colder, but text message scammers are heating up. Have you received a text message that says, “Your entry last month WON! Go to TargetContests.com enter winning code 3847 to claim your FREE $1000.00 Target gift card within 24hrs.”?
If so, you’re not alone. We received our first complaint about this bogus gift card text message on November 8, but this text spam (aka smishing) scheme has exploded on Scambook within the past two days. We anticipate that the numbers will continue to grow exponentially.
This is still breaking news, but I compared our TargetContests.com data to the statistics we’ve been collecting about Best Buy gift card smishing (BestBuyWin.net, BestBuyContests.com, etc). The earliest numbers for the Best Buy scheme were very close to what we’re seeing for TargetContests.com.
That means over 100,000 cell phone users could be, ahem, targeted by this phony text within the next three months.
So far, Scambook members have reported 149 complaints about TargetContests.com. But more than 100 of those complaints arrived overnight between November 12 and 13. We’ve rarely seen a single complaint subject get so much activity in such a short time period.
As with the other smishing cases, Target isn’t affiliated with this scheme. We’re reaching out to Target for a comment and we’ll update this post as soon as we get an official statement.
New Twist, Same Scheme
It’s a new twist on the same mobile fraud we’ve been tracking from the very beginning of the Scambook Blog. Spammers select thousands of cell phone numbers, usually via randomizing computer software, then blast a text message promoting the bogus $1000 gift card prize.
They use stores where most people shop, like Target and Walmart, then create websites that mimic the real company’s brand. TargetContests.com looks like this:
At first glance, it’s pretty convincing. And who wouldn’t love to win a $1000 Target gift card, especially so close to Christmas? Unfortunately, just like the Walmart Gift Card Scam and BestBuyWin.net, this gift card prize isn’t real. Target has nothing to do with this.
The Truth Behind the Text
It’s a cross-promotional marketing scheme known as a Gift Redemption Program. TargetContests.com redirects to DailyGiftCard.com, which seems to be affiliated with DailyDealFinder.com and looks eerily similar to RewardHubZone.com, the real website behind BestBuyWin.net.
In all my research on this subject, I’ve never come across anyone who has completed one of these Gift Redemption Programs and actually received a $1000 gift card, or any prize. Have you? After thousands of reports from users who have received these gift card smishing texts, we’d love to hear from someone who actually got one. Personally, I think these text message winners are like unicorns or Santa Claus. Prove me wrong in the comments.
If you receive a text for a free $1000 gift card prize at TargetContests.com, ignore it and contact your service provider to report the sender. Your cell phone company may also be able to block unknown numbers for texting you and charging your account.
Did you get this text? Click here to submit a complaint on Scambook.
UPDATE: Target’s Response
We reached out to a Target representative, who confirmed that Target isn’t sending you these text messages. They’re not affiliated with TargetContests.com or any other website affiliated with a smishing text. In fact, they’re just as ticked off as you are. Target is working hard to get fake “Target” websites, like TargetContests.com, permanently removed and blocked.
The official word from Target:
Recently, there have been reports of automated text message scams that prompt unsuspecting phone users to click on a link to “win a $1,000 gift card,” among other offers.
Target takes the security of its guests and consumers seriously and works to disable and block fake “Target” websites and links as soon as they’re discovered.
If you receive such a message [as TargetContests.com] it is most likely a scam. Indicators that the offer is suspicious include sloppy language, typos and an informal style, such as multiple exclamation marks.
Target is advising users to ignore the text message. If you’re unsure about a promotional offer, Target urges consumers to contact them directly by visiting www.target.com/contactus
For more information, read our follow-up post.