When the chief financial officer for Costco gets messaged by his sister asking if that viral Facebook posting about that $75 coupon is for real, you know this is a pretty good scam.
Richard Galanti takes a philosophical attitude.
“They come and they go periodically,” he says. “We’ve all clicked on something and afterwards realized we shouldn’t have.”
The scam, offering a $75 coupon in honor of Costco’s 50th anniversary, has been around since at least 2018, according to fact-checking website Snopes.
All recipients have to do is answer a few simple questions, such as “Do you like shopping?”
And for that you get $75? Wow.
The latest incarnation of the Costco coupon scam began appearing on Facebook a few days ago, and went viral as people shared it.
By Tuesday, the Issaquah-based company, with some 770 stores worldwide, was telling its 2.1 million followers on its Facebook page, “While we love our fans and our members, this offer is a SCAM, and in no way affiliated with Costco.”
But how could individuals who think of themselves as smart and relatively savvy click on such a con?
Richard Ross, a Seattle attorney, was scrolling through Facebook on his smartphone when he saw the Costco coupon had been posted by “two people I generally trust.”
So he began clicking and answering the benign questions. “How old are you? Under 18 years. Above 18 years.”
“It actually looked official” what with the Costco logo, he said.
But then things just looked a little sketchy and he clicked out.
He says about the scam, “It’s kinda more about Facebook these days. If it blew up my account, it’d be OK.”
At the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, which helps identity-scam victims at no charge, there’s sympathy why smart people would fall for the scam.
“People want to save money,” says Charity Lacey, spokeswoman for the group. “The scam comes looking very much like the real thing. The scam artists appreciate existing brands have good loyalty and positive sentiment.”
Says the center’s posting about the Costco coupon, “They may be gathering your email address and access to your social media friends list in order to sell the information to spammers.
“They may also be generating revenue from click advertising by getting you to answer screen after screen of survey questions. More harmful cases may actually install malicious software on your computer by getting you to first download a bogus ‘coupon installer’ to print your coupon.”
With the Costco coupon scam simmering down, not to worry, there is always another one.
Wednesday afternoon, the Facebook page for Bud Light had to post this for its 8 million followers:
“We’ve been informed by some of our loyal fans that there is a FREE BEER SCAM going around. Bud Light is NOT giving away free 24 packs, this offer is in no way affiliated with Bud Light. Thanks again to all of our fans that brought this to our attention.”