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Have you seen a message on WhatsApp or Facebook offering you free help during the pandemic? People have reported seeing messages that seem to be from Pepsi, Walmart, Whole Foods, Target, and other big-name brands. These messages all offer money to people who need it — through grants, coupons for food support, or other giveaways. But they’re all fake, and not from those companies at all.

You might get this kind of message, in English or Spanish, from a friend or contact. The message tells you to click a link to get your money. If you click, you might find a survey to take. Or they might ask you to enter your name, address, phone number, or other information. And they might ask you to forward the message to several friends to be eligible to collect.

But what these message are really doing is running a phishing scam to collect your information (and your friends’ info), and possibly putting malware on your phone, tablet, or computer if you click the link. There’s no money to get, and no help to be had. Just scammers. It could have been a real (and hopeful) friend who forwarded that message to you – but it could have been a scammer who hacked your friend’s account.

So: what do you do if you get one of these messages?

  • Don’t click on any links. That could download malware, expose you to even more scams, or add your phone number to lists sold to still other scammers.
  • Delete the messages – and certainly don’t share them.
  • Call the friend who shared the message. Did they forward it to you? If not, tell them their account might have been hacked. If so, share this blog post with them.

If you already clicked or shared, run a security scan on your device to look for malware. And then share this blog post with the friends you forwarded the message to – and ask them to do the same.

And then tell the FTC: ftc.gov/complaint.

 

14 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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imtiazhussain
August 28, 2020
Pay Pal has deducted money from my account ie 50 million USD. You are requested to please consider me for payment of COVID-19 payment
DIEDRA DUNFORD
August 28, 2020
THANK FOR THE INFO I JUST DONT NO WHO IS REAL ANYMORE I AM TIRED OF ALL THE DIFFERENT SCAMMERS TRYNA RUN CROOKED GAMES ON ME I JUST DONT TRUST ANYONE ANYMORE THANKS
Lucy
August 31, 2020
Thank you for this info.
tired of being…
September 24, 2020
I'm so sick and tired of people using me I'm on a fixed income. And they just don't care. Well I'm not taking this mess anymore. Get a job, do you know how much I wish could work.
Teresa Kuhl
December 12, 2020
This scam has started reappearing on Facebook: I saw it today while looking at recipes from a cooking group I follow.
John42
January 05, 2021
There are a bunch of scam artist on facebook all you have to do is join a stimulus Facebook page and they are right there
Jakob
March 02, 2021
Thanks so much for this. I saw this message and I thought it's a scam but I wasn't sure so I checked on google and I found this site. Thank you.
Danwoods1
June 16, 2021
They are also sending them through text messages now
Ruffis
July 24, 2021
Has anyone heard about Coca-Cola and this program if you invest money they will send you way more money then you have invested like (invest 700$ you get 7700$ send back to you with in 5-7 minutes after
Jon B
August 13, 2021

In reply to by Ruffis

Got a message ttoday with that exact appeal. I blocked the person. It's just too risky.
Bassman
July 26, 2021
ran across this scam today, 7/26/2021
Sheri54
July 30, 2021
Someone approached me on fb telling me of money they will give if i invest . 3600 was the amount they woukd send me to a cash app account.if i invest 240.oo the went to say the accountant needed my facebook email and password .i do not think this young womann is aware shes working for a scammer
Thelma Whitehead
August 14, 2021
I'm sick of it, can't something be done.