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Scam uses text messaging to lure victims with free gift cards - KOAM TV 7

Scam uses text messaging to lure victims with free gift cards

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A new trend in identity theft is surfacing across the Four States and it's being done through text messages.

In the past couple of weeks several people have received text messages from numbers with out-of-state area codes claiming they have won a big prize.  The messages appear to be a scam to get a hold of personal information and local law enforcement say it's easy to avoid becoming a victim.

Pittsburg resident Barbara McWilliams received a text message a little after 3 a.m. telling her she was the winner of a $1,000 gift card from Walmart.

"I was thrilled, I could've got a couple new car tires for my car, bought my children's birthday gifts next month that I normally wouldn't have been able to do, so I was very excited and kind of - I knew when I dove into my clothes, anything that is too good to be true, always is," says McWilliams.  "I called Walmart and spoke with someone that answered the phone, and I told them that I didn't have a computer and that I had received this text message on my phone."

The message directed her to a website and provided her a code word that she would need to enter to claim her prize.

We tried it out for ourselves and after going to the website and entering the code we were stopped by a page asking for personal information, including name, birth date and address.

That is a big red flag says Lt. Christ Hatcher of the Pittsburg Police Department.

"Anytime you give out your address, you run the risk of letting criminal associates know exactly where you live, so you could be potentially setting yourself up for burglary," says Lt. Hatcher.  "Even something just as simple as giving out your date of birth, can lead to your identity getting stolen.  They don't have to have your social security number, driver's license."

In a lot of these cases you don't even have to enter your personal information to get hacked.

"Once you go to that site they may have hidden Trojans on that site, that's going to start copying everything you know people do," says Lt. Hatcher.

The best way to protect yourself from these scams is to ignore or delete any questionable texts.

McWilliams was let down when she didn't receive free money but thankful she didn't fall prey.

We contacted Walmart officials who confirmed these text messages are not coming from them.

The Pittsburg Police Department tells us they will be monitoring the issue closely but say it's hard to track down a hacker especially if they're not from the area.

They encourage anyone who receives these types of messages in the future to contact them because the more information they have the better.

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