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Text scam promises $1,000 Target gift card

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you have received a text message saying you've won a $1,000 Target gift card, you could be in danger of identity theft.

The text message provides a link to a fake Target website where recipients can "claim the prize" by entering personal information such as their name, address and social security number.

The West Virginia Attorney General's Office has received numerous reports concerning the scam, according to Assistant Attorney General Matthew Stonestreet.

"Most consumers don't fall prey to it because they understand it's a scam with the intent to try to get their personal information," he said. "If you were to fall for it, you would get nothing, and the scammers would have your information and could commit identity theft pretty easily."

The texts are sent from a nonworking number and supply a three-digit code to enter at the website. The misleading site even uses Target's logo and mascot, but has no connection to the company, Stonestreet said.

"Target has absolutely nothing to do with it. This has happened on and off for the past couple of years. In May, a similar Best Buy text was going around," he said. "The truth is, the scam could be conducted from an international location that's difficult to track."

Scams that use text messaging to access victims are known as "smishing," and cellphone numbers can be easy to acquire online, Stonestreet said.

The Consumer Protection & Anti-Trust Division of the Attorney General's Office is advising those who have received the message to delete it immediately and avoid clicking any links included in the message, in addition to refraining from supplying "any personal or otherwise identifiable information."

The Attorney General's Office has not received any reports of identity theft caused by the scam at this time, but it could be too soon to tell, Stonestreet said.

"It would take a while for someone to realize it was a scam," he said. "They wouldn't know their identity was stolen until a couple of months down the road."

One Eastern Kanawha County woman said she's received the text message more than once this week.

"Some people in this area are hurting for money," she said. "I can see them giving all of their information because they need groceries. You can buy anything at Target."

While she sensed immediately that the text was a scam, the woman said she feels her privacy has been invaded and wishes to remain anonymous.

"The message turned a red light on for me. I would never give my bank account information to anyone," she said. "What makes me mad is that it's my cellphone. They can even get to people on their cell now."

For more information, contact the Consumer Protection & Anti-Trust Division, at 304-558-8986.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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