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Security & privacy

Don’t fall for these Netflix scams that try to steal your info

Scams come in all forms and fashions. Whether it’s phishing scams, malware, URL squatting or misinformation campaigns — we’ve seen them all over the last few months.

Part of the problem is scammers taking advantage of COVID-19. But while the pandemic has helped kicked scammy behavior into high gear, cybercriminals aren’t just focused on pandemic-related crimes. There are tons of other cybercrimes going around, including these two scams that revolve around the popular streaming service Netflix.

Netflix recently increased its price, so you might be looking for ways to save a few bucks. However, if you get caught up in one of these scams, it could end up costing you a lot more than a full-price Netflix account. Here’s what you need to know.

Streaming scams to watch out for

Classic Netflix phishing

The first scam you should take note of uses an old tactic — the fear of your account being shut down. Thieves are once again using this scheme to steal your personal information. Here’s how it works.

To pull this off, scammers are sending spoofed emails to Netflix users stating that their account will be deleted if they do not “verify their billing information.” These emails are effective because they look like communications you’d get from Netflix — only they’re from thieves instead.

In the email, you’re told you have 48 hours to verify your billing information via the link sent in the email. Otherwise, your account will be blocked, leaving you without access to your favorite streaming shows.

That countdown is meant to scare victims into acting quickly — and without thinking. If you fall for it and click the link, you’ll be taken to a spoofed site to input sensitive information. That gives the criminals behind these scams immediate access to your payment and personal information. This can be used for identity theft or other crimes that drain your bank accounts.

It’s easy to fall for these types of scams. That’s because crooks behind them take the time to make the emails look as official as possible, and the time limit prompts you to move quickly to avoid the closing of your account.

Look closely, though, and you’ll see that the URLs and email addresses contain typos or punctuation changes that are meant to trick the eye into thinking they’re official emails from Netflix. We’ve seen this tactic used time and again — and it’s surprisingly effective.

Related: 5 scams spreading online that can cost you thousands

Discount Netflix scam

The other scam banks on you wanting to save some money on your Netflix subscription. To pull it off, cybercriminals are sending out text messages to people stating something like, “Due to the pandemic, Netflix is offering everyone a free year of service to help you stay at home. Click the link to sign up.”

If you click the link, you’ll be taken to a website to fill out your personal information and add a payment method. It’s not unusual for free promo offers to require a credit card to pay for subscription charges after the promo ends, so this wouldn’t be particularly suspect to most people.

However, if you click on the link or URL in the text, you’ll be taken to a spoofed site to input your information. When you do this, your card information will land right in the hands of scammers. They can use that information in several ways, including charges for services you aren’t receiving.

One victim told the Better Business Bureau that thieves charged their credit card repeatedly. Asking for a refund didn’t resolve the issue, either.

“[The scammers] said no other money would be taken out of my account again,” the victim stated. “Then, about a week later, they took $39.99, and I called and asked for a refund. They told me 3 days at first. Then, after 3 days I called back, and they told me 7-10 business days. It’s been 10 business days. And now I have no refund.”

How to avoid being taken for a ride by these scams

These scams are banking on a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly. That’s the last thing you should do if you want to avoid being scammed. Follow these safety precautions instead:

  • Do not trust unsolicited communication. 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, be very wary of the message.
  • Go with your gut — and go straight to the source. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Go right to the website or the company’s customer service contacts to confirm a real offer before clicking links found in texts or emails.
  • Look for typos and other errors. Before you click on any link or URL, be sure to examine the web address carefully. Look for typos or punctuation that shouldn’t be there — and make sure you compare the web addresses or emails to verified company contact info.
  • Ignore any instructions to text “STOP” or “NO.” Whatever you do, do not interact with a scammy message. Some scammers are trying to confirm that your number is in use, and if you interact with them, they’ll know it’s a working number.
  • Change your password. If you receive a text or email from a fake Netflix account, you need to change your password — even if you didn’t interact with the message. Need help creating stronger passwords? Tap or click here for helpful tips.

If you’ve already interacted with the text or email, make sure to check all bank and account information right away for any suspicious charges. And check your credit report for unfamiliar accounts opened in your name.

Related: The worst identity theft scam you’ve never heard of

Change your passwords, contact credit card companies and do what you need to do to protect yourself. You don’t want scammers to use your personal accounts or information, so act quickly if you think you’ve fallen for one of the scams above.

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