Times are tough for many people right now. The economy and job market aren’t great due to the pandemic, leaving stressed out people in a lurch with empty wallets.
The economy isn’t the only thing draining wallets, though. Holidays are tough on finances, too. Plenty of people are looking for deals or giveaways to ease the financial strain right now, and scammers are capitalizing on it.
We’ve seen tons of scams recently that target everyone from job seekers to online shoppers. A new scam has been making the rounds recently, too. This one promises a grocery giveaway, and you need to keep an eye out for it. Here’s how it works and what you should look out for.
A new scam to avoid
Have you come across any of those giveaways that circulate on social media sites like Facebook recently? These types of posts offer to give away everything from tiny houses to complete home makeovers or cash — but they all have one thing in common: they’re scams.
That’s precisely what happened late last month when a post from a fake Costco page popped up on Facebook. Costco’s CEO Craig Jelinek supposedly posted the message, and it offered a free grocery box to anyone who wanted one. All you needed to do was share and comment on the post to get it.
The message read, “My name is Craig Jelinek and I’m the CEO of Costco Inc. To celebrate our 35th Birthday, Every single person who shaᴦes and comments in the next 24hrs will get one of these Christmas Food Box delivered straight to their door on Monday 30th November. Each Food box contains groceries worth of $250 and a $35 Costco voucher. Make sure you validate your entry. Limit 1 Food box per person.”
As you may have guessed, this post was a scam. These types of schemes are common on social media, and while they don’t always involve huge members-only warehouses like Costco, they’re dangerous to interact with. In all cases, the posts will use an appealing offer, like free grocery boxes, to entice you to click and post.
They’ll also ask you to share in hopes that the scam message will be passed around to as many social media users as possible — maximizing the chances of duping someone into passing along their personal information or credit card info.
And that’s the goal of these scams: to get access to things like email addresses, passwords or credit card numbers. They’re surprisingly successful, too. The promise of deeply discounted or free merchandise can be tough to pass up — especially if you’re in a rough spot financially.
How to spot giveaway scams
The page used for this scam was convincingly close to the real Costco page. Images were similar and the names were, too. But if you look closely, there are clear signs that this was a scam. Craig Jelinek’s name was misspelled “Jelinekand” in this scam Facebook post, which was the first clue.
This message was not posted on Costco’s official page, either. It was posted on a fake Facebook page that was made to look like Costco’s page — and the poster wasn’t the CEO of Costco, either. Both of those factors are clear signs that this was a scam. People still fell for it, though, despite the warning signs.
This isn’t the first time in recent months that we’ve seen this grocery scam, either. A nearly identical version was going around social media in November. That scam used Aldi for name recognition but offered the same thing to social media followers — a free box of groceries if you commented and shared the post.
Aldi addressed the scam, noting that it had no affiliation with Aldi and warning customers to watch out.
How to protect your personal info and wallet
Getting free items is awesome, but you need to be wary of these types of offers. Costco and other businesses aren’t going to offer tens of thousands of social media followers free boxes of groceries for sharing a comment. It’s just not going to happen.
Other grocery-related scams are going around, too. This Instacart scam we told you about leads to groceries being stolen before they’re even delivered. Given the prevalence of these schemes, you need to be on the defense to avoid getting taken for a ride.
One of the main things you can do is to be skeptical of offers like these. Keep in mind the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” You should also avoid giving out personal information or financial information on social media. No legitimate giveaway will ask you for this information.
Be careful what you share on social media, too. You don’t want to rope someone else into a scam accidentally. You may avoid any losses, but someone else might not be as lucky.
If you spot a scam like this, you should also report the post and fake profile on Facebook (or the social media platform it’s on). You can use the Page Transparency tool on Facebook to look into whether the page is legitimate, too.
If you’re still uncertain, do a quick web search. If the giveaway is a scam, you’ll probably come across some posts or a notice from the business warning you of it. Try to cross-check the info on the page, too. Make sure everything looks up to snuff.
And, if you have any lingering questions, err on the side of caution. Don’t put yourself in a bad position over the slight chance you’ll get something for free. It isn’t worth it.