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Security & privacy

Scammers are using free or cheap internet to lure you in – How to spot their tricks

The ongoing pandemic has made reliable internet service essential. Though some are returning to the office and children attend classes in person, we don’t know what the future will bring. Sporadic COVID outbreaks are still causing places to shut down.

A government initiative is in place to provide a discount for broadband service for qualifying low-income households. Discounts on certain devices are also available. Tap or click here for more information and see if you qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB).

Now, the Federal Trade Commission is warning of a scam involving the EBB Program. The scam is showing up in the form of ads on social media. Read on to find out what to look out for.

Here’s the backstory

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program gives a temporary discount of up to $50 per month on broadband subscriptions, including equipment rental. Qualifying homes on Tribal lands can get a $75 monthly discount.

On top of that, a one-time discount of up to $100 is available for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50).

You need to enroll in the EBB Program with a participating provider that offers connected devices to get a discount. The service provider, in turn, will provide a discount to you. Not all service providers will offer this.

The scam

If you are offered access to the program through any means aside from the FCC and its listed providers, it’s a scam. The FTC says fraudulent ads are being posted on social media that help sign you up for the EBB Program. All you need to do is pay a fee or hand over personal information.

Scammers are impersonating agencies like the FCC for this elaborate scheme. Just know, the government is not putting ads on social media asking for money or any other information. Also, the program involves a discount on internet service or devices; it is not offering them for free.

Here are some tips from the FTC to avoid these scams:

  • Only apply through the FCC and listed providers. The only way to sign up for the EBB Program is at GetEmergencyBroadband.org. If another company says it can sign you up for this program, check first to see if it’s an approved provider here.
  • Don’t pay up front to get “free” connected devices or services. The EBB program is free for those who qualify. Never pay to sign up for benefits.
  • Don’t give your financial or personal information to someone who calls, texts, or emails and says they’re with the FCC. If you think a call or message could be real, be careful. Call the Emergency Broadband Support Center at 1-833-511-0311 to check.

Have you seen this scam on social media? It’s a good idea to report it to the FTC here to help others avoid falling victim.

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