(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Grande trouble: BBB warns of bogus COVID-19 Starbucks gift card scam

Scammers disguise phishing scheme as COVID-19-related gift

That virtual gift card may look like a welcome blessing, but it could buy you is a bunch of trouble.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving mainland B.C. is warning the public to a new COVID-19-related phishing scam involving false Starbucks gift cards.

Scammers impersonate Starbucks by blasting mass emails, apologizing for store closures due to social distancing requirements and offering a virtual gift card via a link in the email. The link takes the potential victims to page where they are directed to fill out their personal information. BBB investigations also indicate that the links in the emails are malicious and suspicious; in addition to asking for personal information, they could also open the virtual door for hackers to compromise consumer devices.

RELATED: B.C. warns of phone scam offering to sell fake COVID-19 testing

“With more people now working remotely and are now accessing business networks from personal devices and internet connections that are not as secure, the risks are greater if your device gets compromised,” says Karla Laird, Manager for Community & Public Relations at BBB. “Think twice before opening unsolicited emails with strange links and attachments”.

Starbucks representatives confirmed the promotion is not valid. BBB encouraged consumers to confirm existing and upcoming promotions via the Starbucks app or by contacting a local store.

RELATED: RCMP warns of COVID-19 scams spreading through B.C.

To protect yourself against this and related scams, the BBB recommends the following:

Be careful about unsolicited emails. If the message appears to be from a company to which you’re not already subscribed, it could be a fake.

Never click on links in emails from strangers. Anonymous or unknown senders are a common red flag. Do not click, download or open it. This is possibly an attempt to install malware and harvest crucial personal information from your device.

If it sounds too good to be true, confirm it. Verify the email or offer by contacting the company directly or consulting their website (in the example above, physically typing starbucks.ca into your browser). By logging on to a company website through your personal account, it’s easy to verify if an offer you received via email is legitimate or not.

Be wary of generic emails. Scammers may sometimes leave emails intentionally vague in an effort to snare more people into their schemes. Unsolicited messages that don’t address you by name or user name in addition to messages with spelling or grammar errors should raise red flags.

Look before you click. Since life is becoming increasingly more virtual due to the need for social distancing, there will be an increased need for text or email communication. As such, it’s that much more important to inspect links by hovering over them with your mouse to see where it actually goes.

For more information about scams related to the coronavirus, visit www.bbb.org/coronavirus.



adam.louis@ahobserver.com

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