Beware of text message gift card scam

HOUSTON - It sounds like a holiday treat: You get a text message from a major retailer telling you that you've won a gift card. But, that text could lead to more trouble.

Houstonian Paul Rodriguez thought a text he received, supposedly from Best Buy, was too good to ignore.

"I thought I had actually won something," Rodriguez said.

The text message reads, "Your entry has won! Go to bestbuybfpromos.Com/?A and enter the code "1122" to claim your $1000 best buy gift card! Must claim by 11/30/2012."

"It gave me a deadline, so that's why I had asked my son to go in there and give them the promo code and try to claim it as soon as possible," Rodriguez said.

But his son knew better. Representatives with the Better Business Bureau say you should, too.

Millions of these texts have gone out since early this year. But, just before Black Friday, the scam picked up steam again.

Local 2 Investigates found the website Rodriguez was directed to is no longer active. But thousands of other consumers were sent a text telling them to log on to a different website for a Target gift card.

Local 2 went through the steps to demonstrate what happens. We entered a random pin the website claimed our gift card was "valid." But the next screen doesn't say how to get our gift card. Instead it asks for personal information,  like a birth date. It also asks questions about credit card debt. That's information that could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Here's what you should do if you get one of these texts: Ignore instructions to text "stop" or "no" to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a real, active phone number.  Instead forward the texts to 7726. This spells spam on most keypads and it will alert your cellphone carrier to block future texts from those numbers.

"I think somehow that needs to be policed more, and protect the people, the consumers," Rodriguez told Davis.

Unfortunately, no one has been able to pin down the source of the websites or trace these texts.

Experts said companies are just sending out the messages to thousands of random numbers hoping to get a hit. If you reply, that just reveals your number is active and you may get even more messages.

If you have a news tip or question for KPRC Local 2 Investigates, drop them an e-mail or call their tipline at (713) 223-TIPS (8477). Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.