Costco says $75 coupon gone viral on social media is a scam

ST. GEORGE — If something appears too good to be true, it usually is. Including a $75 coupon to Costco that has been circulating through social media recently.

Image of Costco coupon that has turned out to be a fake, photo courtesy of the Identity Theft Resource Center, St. George News

St. George News contacted Costco’s corporate headquarters located in Issaquah, Washington, Wednesday.

“Yes, this coupon scam is making the rounds again,” Derrick from the media relations department said.

The fraudulent offer propped up on Facebook earlier this year, prompting users to click on a link unaffiliated with Costco to collect their $75 coupon. To access it, users would need to share the post on Facebook and input some personal information. People sharing the offer is what has allowed the scam to go viral.

Derrick added that Costco is only one of several companies that have been targeted by the scam, saying this is not the first time this particular coupon scam has been reported, and warnings have gone out on social media. Derrick said the coupon “is not a Costco-sponsored promotion.”

In fact, a post issued by the company on Costco’s Facebook page Tuesday says that despite a number of posts out there — Costco is not giving away $75 coupons.

“While we love our fans and our members, this offer is a SCAM, and in no way affiliated with Costco,” the company said.

On Tuesday, the company issued an internal memo to the stores alerting employees to the scam, Anthony, front-end manager of the Costco in St. George, told St. George News. Local Costco employees have been asked to relay to its membership that the coupon “is not legit,” he said.

He also said the coupon itself appears legitimate and was well-designed, but it’s a fake nonetheless.

‘Tis the season

As this holiday season approaches, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has issued a statement encouraging users to be aware of potential holiday scams and malicious cyber campaigns, particularly when browsing or shopping online, and to avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails.

In November of last year, a scam targeting Facebook users involving Walmart Black Friday and Thanksgiving promotional coupon offers for $50- 85% off began circulating on social media, according to Snopes.

Fake Walmart grocery coupon distributed during the holidays by scammers, November, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Snopes, St. George News

One fake coupon that turned into a problem for a leading food manufacturer and hundreds of retailers was a coupon offering a free $5 bag of Doritos brand chips that was circulating on the internet. The Doritos coupon appeared to be legitimate and many people innocently tried to use it. Many grocery stores accepted the bogus Doritos coupons and bore the loss, as did the manufacturer, Frito-Lay.

There have been a number of coupon scams and bogus offers that have targeted other companies, including Hanes clothing, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, Digiorno pizzas and Oreo cookies.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment, and while there may not appear to be any real harm in a fake coupon — other than not getting the deal hoped for — these type of scams can steal personal information or infect the user’s computer with a virus.

Other schemes may direct the user to a fake survey site, allowing scammers to collect data to steal their identity. They may even direct the individual to sites packed with viruses that can also steal information or hold the computer for ransom, while others blatantly ask victims for credit card or other financial information in order to access the deal.

These coupon scams have run the gamut many times, where people are promised free coupons at large retailers worth more than the company typically offers. But there has been a recent boom to the coupon scam industry. The key to the surge in coupon fraud schemes is the Internet, according to Scambusters.

In the past, printed coupons were exclusively distributed by mail or in newspaper inserts which enabled manufacturers to print special security codes and other anti-fraud devices. And while these are still widely used, online coupons can be downloaded and printed on home printers, making it easier for fraudsters to hijack and copy.

For more information on these and other types of coupon scams, go to FTC Facts for Consumers.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.