Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Kroger Coupon Scam

Recently an awesome coupon deal has been floating around Facebook offering $200.00 off your purchase of $220.00 at Kroger. A peek at the Kroger corporate page shows tons of posts from people asking if it is real or not. My newsfeed is full of people sharing the coupon, a lot of times with the message "this probably isn't real, but it can't hurt to try".

In all actuality it can hurt to try. Many times these scams require you to complete certain tasks to earn the coupon (or iPad, shoes whatever). You may not notice that you're signing up for expensive monthly offers. A lot of times they ask you to give your credit card number and people are so entranced by the idea that they will get something for free that they give it. These scammers use the names of established businesses to earn your trust. I would probably feel comfortable giving Kroger my credit card number (since I use my card there every week), but not to some random guy on the Internet. Once the scammers have your credit card information who knows what they can do with it. A friend of mine fell for one of these "deals" and gave them her credit card information. Her next bill was filled with charges for various services. She attempted to dispute them with her credit card company, but since she herself had signed up for them (Since she didn't read the fine print she didn't know what she was signing up for, but ignorance is not excuse). She spent months trying to cancel all these subscriptions and as expected her "free" item never arrived.

Sometimes the scam seems innocuous. I told someone on the Kroger page that it was fake and they replied that all they had to do was like a page and share with friends and that the page didn't ask for their credit card number. Often times these scams are used to collect a massive amount of likes for a page which is then sold and rebranded. You don't know who is buying the page or what your name will be associated with. In addition often times these links can contain viruses or malware that can infect your computer or harvest data from your computer. You can be exposing your passwords, financial information or anything else you keep on your device to these people. When I think about the sheer amount of data on my computer or device it terrifies me to think about someone having unrestricted access to it. 

You are required to share the page with your friends or with groups in order to spread the scam far and wide. This brings the scammers plenty of new victims and tons of people seem to fall for it. 

So the big question is how do you avoid these scams? It takes some common sense and some internet savvy. Common sense seems to go out the window with the promise of something for nothing. It's an enticing offer, but take a minute to step back and think.

 First things first take a look at the link. You can see the link underneath the words Get your $200.00 Kroger coupon now! This scam has a variety of different links attached to it. If it doesn't sound like a link to the legitimate page then it is a scam. You can see how long and complicated the link is in the first post. Somehow Amazon pops up in the link even though they have nothing to do with Kroger. That is a red flag right there!

Next check out the official corporate page on Facebook. Search for the business name in your search bar and find their page. When businesses run a promotion they will usually promote it-they want to promote their business. As you may see Kroger has posted nothing about offering a coupon. If they were offering it they would want people to participate.
Next do a Google search for whatever is being offered and the word scam. You can see I found tons of articles about different variations of this scam and other blog posts. Snopes is a reliable source for this information and you should always check with them before sharing something on Facebook. A Google search takes less than a minute of your time and can save you and your friends the heartache of being scammed. 
Last but not least think about it! This is what the page asks you do to to earn your coupon (I didn't click on the link, I found this on the Kroger Facebook page. Someone had posted this asking if it was real). For these 3 simple steps Kroger is going to give me $200.00. Think about the number of times you have seen this coupon shared, plus the number of people you would be sharing it with. If the coupon was legitimate can you imagine the amount of money they would be giving away? Does that sound feasible? Think about other giveaways you have seen-I have seen drawings for a gift card in a large amount, but how many people win those? One or two at most. Think about the usual coupons you see-usually they are worth a dollar or less right? How does a $200.00 coupon make sense? 
I've seen the same scam run with Ugg boots and Playstations. Once again think about the expense-companies like to market their products, but they can't give away millions of dollars for something as simple as sharing a picture or liking a page. 

You may not think it does any harm, but it does. It clogs up Facebook with this drivel, annoys your friends, puts your personal information at risk and makes you look stupid for falling for it. It seems so easy and innocuous to click share and hope, but a responsible person does their research! Protect yourself! 

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