When Not to Trust a Great Deal
A couple nights ago I was out on Facebook killing time, and I saw that many of my friends had clicked on this deal from Costco where you could get a $400 gift card just for signing up. I love Costco, and I was planning to go there this weekend and drop some cash, so I thought, this would be pretty cool. Then my BS-detector went off and thought, no, it’s too good to be true. Then I saw that 10-15 of my friends had clicked on it, so maybe it was true.
I opened up the preliminary page that looked like this:
I didn’t end up clicking on it, and according to this article (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/facebook-scam-get-a-costco-gift-card-for-free/6154) I’m glad I didn’t. After reading that article, I thought it might be helpful if I could explain some things to look at it to determine if the next deal that’s “too good to be true” is actually a real deal.
First, one quick definition – a URL (uniform resource locator) is the same thing as a web site address. There are a couple things to look for in a URL to tell if it’s legitimate, and the URL holds 2 of the 3 clues I look for when trying to decide if something is real.
- The prefix of the URL is generally either http: or https:. When you are entering any personal information (especially credit cards), you want to do that on a site that is secure which means it has to start with https:. It’s not terribly hard for any computer program to pick off information posted on a website with the http: prefix, so if you enter information into a site without the “s” just know that your information can be compromised.
- When I’m looking for a site to see if it’s valid, I usually just look at the domain name (costco.com is what I would’ve expected in this case). If the domain name isn’t the company’s site, then I get suspicious. It’s always possible another site is set up to take orders for this company, but if you’re trying to fish out a scam, it’s something to consider.
- When you go to a site where you are trying to sign up for something, you usually see something called “CAPTHCA” or reCAPTCHA on the site.
The purpose of this box on the site is to try to prevent automated programs from filling out the form. So if you have the chance to sign up for something that is limited to a certain number of participants, I would definitely expect to see a CAPTCHA box; otherwise a computer programmer could easily create a program that would fill out the form over and over again automatically. [Side note: a friend of mine from college is friends with the guy who invented this. It’s a really cool idea; check out this link if you want to know more about how it works: http://captcha.net/.]
Next time you see a deal that’s too good to be true, take a minute to see if the deal looks like it’s really originating from the company before you click on the link. I hope this helps you avoid future scams.