Offered a free year of Netflix? Not so fast
Between the winter weather and COVID-19, most people are spending a lot of time at home. Streaming services, such as Netflix or Hulu, are more popular than ever.
Watch out for scams cashing in on this opportunity. BBB Scam Tracker has gotten numerous reports of a text messaging con tricking would-be watchers with the offer of “free” Netflix for a year.
How the scam works
You receive a text message that says something like this: “Due to the pandemic, Netflix is offering everyone a free year of service to help you while staying at home. Click the link to sign up.”
Sounds great, right? If you click, you’ll be taken to a website to fill out your personal information and add a payment method.
However, the website is not run by Netflix. If you “sign up,” you’ll give your personal information to a scammer. If you add payment information, you may be charged for services that you’ll never receive because the scammer has nothing to do with Netflix.
“Crooks are getting ever smarter in ripping off consumers,” said Barry N. Moore, President and CEO of BBB serving Central Virginia. “If a deal sounds or looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t [real].”
One victim told BBB Scam Tracker that scammers charged their credit card repeatedly — even after they asked for a refund.
“[The scammers] said no other money would be taken out of my account again,” the victim reported. “Then, about a week later, they took $39.99, so I called and asked for a refund. They told me [a refund would be processed in] three days at first. Then, after three days I called back, and they told me seven to 10 business days. It’s been 10 business days. And now I have no refund.”
How to avoid text message scams
With many legitimate businesses using text messages to communicate with customers, scammers have come up with their own SMS cons. These are often called “smishing” (for SMS phishing) scams.
Don’t believe every text you receive. As a general rule, companies can’t send you text messages unless you opt in to receive them. If you receive a text message from a company you haven’t given permission to contact you in this way, proceed with caution. In fact, any unsolicited text message should be considered a potential fraud.
Go to the source. If an offer seems odd, or too good to be true, contact the company directly. Call or email customer service to find out if the text message you received is legitimately from that company.
Take a close look at web addresses. If you follow a link in a text message that you believe is legitimate, examine the web address carefully before you take any action to make sure you are visiting a company’s official website and not a look-alike. If you don’t see “s” at the end of http(s), it’s an unsecured website and possibly a scam.
Ignore instructions to text “STOP” or “NO.” Even if you realize the message is a scam, don’t text back for any reason. Scammers may want you to text back to verify that your phone number is an active one. Instead, simply block the number so you won’t receive messages from it in the future.
Change your password. Even if you don’t fall for this scam, Netflix advises its customers to change their password if they’ve been targeted. Check help.netflix.com/en/node/65674.
For more information
Learn more about smishing scams on BBB.org. Con artists are sending phony texts pretending to be banking alerts, “mandatory” COVID-19 testing requirements, and package delivery problems.
If you’ve received text messages from scammers, report your experience to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help raise consumer awareness about this common scam tactic.
For more about scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. (Netflix, Inc. and Hulu are both BBB Accredited Businesses.)