TargetContests.com is still targeting victims in record numbers.
When we broke the story about this SMS phishing (aka smishing) scam last Tuesday, Scambook had received 149 complaints from users who received a text like this one:
“Your entry last month WON! Go to TargetContests.com enter winning code 3847 to claim your FREE $1000.00 Target gift card within 24hrs.”
Now, the Scambook group page for Target Contests has reached over 1100 complaints. It’s eclipsed BestBuyWin.net and the Free $1000 Walmart Gift Card scam. Based on our research, we believe that over 30,000 cell phone users have received a text from TargetContests.com so far.
And this number is rising. It’s no coincidence that we’re seeing this smishing attack so close to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that’s typically held as the apex of holiday retail shopping. We think it will continue to climb and peak in mid-December just before Christmas. Over 100,000 additional cell phone users may receive the $1000 Target Contests gift card text before the end of 2012.
This post will review the facts about TargetContests.com, recap an official statement from Target, explain how the scammers got your cell phone number to begin with, and tell you how to report spam texts to your mobile provider.
TargetContests.com Quick Facts
- Not affiliated with or endorsed by Target
- $1000 gift card prize can only be “redeemed” by completing a series of special offers and surveys, and getting your friends to sign up too
- Any personal information you submit on TargetContests.com places you at risk for more smishing, email spam, telemarketing, junk mail, and potentially even identity theft or unauthorized credit card charges
- Scambook advises anyone who receives this text to ignore it and do nothing
- If you received this text message, click here to report it on Scambook
Official Target 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
How Do Scammers Get My Number?
So how did TargetContests.com get your number to begin with? We’ve heard from many of you who never shop at Target, never enter contests and never give your cell phone number to anyone except immediately family. You all want to know, how did the scammers get my number?
Good question. Unfortunately, the con artists behind these schemes are very clever. They obtain their victims’ cell phone numbers one of three ways:
1. Random Number Generators. Scammers use special software to send millions of texts completely at random, without even knowing if there’s a person on the other end. (This is why you should never respond to these texts — if you do, they’ll know they’ve got an active line and you’ll get even more spam.)
2. Marketing Lists. If you’ve ever given your mobile number in a business transaction, it may have ended up in the hands of a dishonest marketing company that sold it to a scammer.
3. Hacking. Scammers can obtain their victims’ numbers by hacking into online databases. Even if the institution is honest and legitimate, such as a school, they might have weaker cyber security that leaves them vulnerable to being hacked.
How Can I Report Spam Texts?
Remember, if you receive a text from TargetContests.com, the best thing to do is just ignore it.
But you can also help law enforcement crack down on these smishing scammers. The official Target representative advised consumers to forward the text to the FBI:
Report suspected scam texts to the FBI by forwarding them to 7726 (“SPAM” on the keypad.) Once you do, you’ll receive an automated message from your wireless carrier asking for the phone number that sent you the text. [via Target’s Corporate Magazine abullseyeview.com]
How Can I Block Future Texts?
If you’re tired of getting these phony gift card offers and other spam messages, here’s what the major wireless providers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) recommend. Follow these instructions to make sure you don’t get charged for unsolicited spam.
- iPhone: Tap Edit. Tap to select the message, and then tap Forward. Enter 7726 in the To field of the message to forward. Tap Send.
- Android: Press the message (being careful not to activate a link), choose Forward (from the menu), and forward to 7726.
- Blackberry: Open the message, then using the Menu key, select Forward (from the menu), and forward to 7726.
When you forward the spam text to 7726, AT&T’s dedicated ant-fraud team is able to investigate it. By alerting them, you’re also in a better position to dispute unauthorized charges. AT&T advises customers to call AT&T Customer Service at 1-800-331-0500 if you’ve been charged for a spam text message like TargetContests.com.
Verizon allows you to block messages. To block unwanted messages from a cell device:
1. Visit Verizon.com and go to the My Verizon Overview page
2. Go to “My Plans & Services” and choose “Verizon Safeguards.”
3. Click on “Call & Message Blocking.”
4. Enter the offending Device Number, then click “Save.”
Sprint also allows you to block unwanted text messages. Send a text to “9999” with the message “block [number]”. You’ll receive an automated reply with further instructions.
T-Mobile users can block texts with a feature called Message Blocking. Here’s how to add it:
1. Go to T-mobile.com, then go to “My T-Mobile” and log in.
2. Select “Manage”, and then select “Plans & Services”.
3. Select a message blocking feature from the list provided and click the “CHANGE SERVICES” button.
4. Complete the transaction and Message Blocking will activate.
Have You Received a Text from TargetContests.com?
For more information, visit the Scambook company page for Target Contests.
You can also submit your own complaint report here.