By Summer Stephan
With COVID-19 keeping many families at home, streaming services have become a popular way to pass the time. Services such Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ allow folks to quarantine at home without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, scammers have taken note of the rise in streaming service users and have sought to exploit the growing market.
Two main scams have surfaced recently: An email scam and a fake website scam. The first scam involves fraudsters using fake emails, commonly known as phishing emails, to obtain sensitive information from victims. These emails typically resemble emails from streaming services and advertise discounts and specials. Many offer a free trial period and other similar specials in exchange for a credit card number or personal information.
The second scam involves fake websites scammers create that closely resemble real streaming websites. Through these fake websites, swindlers obtain personal information, such as a credit card number, from their unsuspecting victims. Luckily, there are many signs that you can look out for in order to spot them.
Ways to spot scam emails include:
Bad grammar or spelling mistakes.
The email does not address you by name or contains no directly identifying information.
The email is sent from a suspicious email address.
The email contains phone numbers or web links that are not affiliated with the streaming service.
Clicking on any link takes you directly to a page asking for personal information such as your credit card number.
The email is from a streaming service to which you are not a subscriber.
The email asks you to download a file or attempts to take you to a webpage to download a file.
The email advertises huge discounts, even a full year of free service.
Other scammers will try to swindle you through fake websites. Here is how to spot fake websites:
An incorrect domain name: For example, the domain name is hulu123.net instead hulu.com.
Spelling mistakes and grammar errors.
Poor design with awkward graphics, incorrect logos, and fonts that are erratic and/or illegible.
Clicking on any link takes you to a different website asking you for banking or credit card information.
A lot of pop-up ads. Legitimate streaming services have few, if any, ads.
Although knowing how to identify a streaming service scam is useful, it’s best to avoid them altogether. Remember to:
Stay vigilant, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Never contact any suspicious number or website.
Use a strong password for all your online accounts.
Never use a third-party to contact your streaming service. Always go to the official website or use the official number.
Never provide sensitive information through email or text-message
Always have your anti-virus software up to date.
Avoid falling for “pressure tactics.” If an email or phone call is urging you to act quickly, tread carefully as it may be a scam.
Verify you are on the correct website by examining the domain.
If you in doubt, contact the company through their official lines of communication with information listed on their website.
If you think you have been scammed, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission or call their hotline at 888-283-3757. Be sure to change the passwords on any accounts that may have been compromised and contact your financial institution to verify all recent transactions.
Finally, if you received a phishing email you want to report, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org, an address that is used by the Federal Trade Commission for phishing scams.
As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and the public. I hope these consumer and public safety tips have been helpful.
— District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 29 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.