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The Scams Targeting Latinos Via Messaging Apps

In recent months, we have received alerts about scams targeting Latinos in New York in the form of WhatsApp and Facebook posts that seem to be from major corporations or celebrities offering help in the form of cash, groceries and other incentives to get people through their financial struggles during the coronavirus pandemic. 

However chances are, these posts are some of the scams targeting Latinos immigrants via fake messages, that are part of a larger scheme to get the personal information of users, including often bank information, in an attempt to put malware on user’s phones or steal information, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned. 

“If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Always assume that if someone’s giving away money or gift cards, or anything, look at it with some sort of skepticism, don’t always believe that ‘hey there’s an opportunity for me to get a $500 Costco gift card, chances are it’s a scam,” Satnam Narang, a researcher at the Cybersecurity firm Tenable who has researched scams on CashApp and other social media platforms, told Documented. 

Also Read: Misinformation Is Harming Trust in the COVID Vaccine Among Latinos in New York

We’ve compiled giveaway schemes that are actually scams targeting Latinos, thanks to the alerts sent to us by members of our WhatsApp community sent to us. We also asked the companies allegedly running these giveaways to confirm if they are true. 

Costco is not giving away free food

A giveaway circulating on WhatsApp asks users to follow a link to claim a portion of $50,000 worth of groceries being given away by Costco. 

Fact Check: A Costco spokesperson said the store is not giving away $50,000 worth of groceries to customers and that the post is a scam and not affiliated with the company. 

Also Read: The Cure for COVID-19 is a Hair Found in a Bible and Other Misinformation Fact-checked

Walmart is not offering $300,000 to those that share a post on Facebook

A giveaway circulating on Facebook urges users to apply to earn $300,000 in five seconds from any country they live in. The post states that the giveaway is being promoted to help people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fact Check: A Walmart spokesperson told Documented that the giveaway is fake. 

The World Bank is not delivering help worth $2,200 via WhatsApp

A post circulating on WhatsApp tells users that the international financial institution, the World Bank, is giving away $2,200 bonds to families in need who are at home quarantining.

Fact Check: A World Bank spokesperson said the institution was not involved in the Spanish language giveaway scheme. The spokesperson said the institution does not lend directly to individuals and cautioned the public to be wary of the post Documented received as well as similar ones claiming to be affiliated with the World Bank Group or any member of the institution. 

Uplifty does not have an article with offers worth $750

A Spanish language article from a site called Uplifty was promoted on Facebook in April urging people to read the article which tells readers they can earn up to $750 by opening an online account with “TD BankSM”, Simple.com and “Chase Sapphire Banking.” 

Documented reached out to the three banks promoted in the article. Here’s what they said:

Fact Check: The article said “TD BankSM” was offering a $150 cash bonus for opening an account. The real TD Bank told Documented that the Uplifty article, promoted on Facebook in April, was promoting an outdated offer. 

The Uplifty article said Simple.com was offering up to $500 in cash bonuses for opening a new account. Simple confirmed that back in March it ran a promotion offering a $200 or $400 bonus to customers who opened a new account, made a qualifying deposit and met other terms and conditions. However, the company said the offer advertised in the article was no longer being offered. 

Also, the article also promoted an offer from “Chase Sapphire Banking” stating the bank was offering $1,000 to open a new checking account. Chase Bank could not confirm the offer at press time. 

Target is not giving coupons to those who click this message

A scheme circulating on WhatsApp tells users that Target is giving away $175 in free groceries to anyone to support people during the “Corona Pandemic” if they click on a link provided. 

Fact Check: A Target spokesperson said the giveaway was fake and not a target advertisement. 

Neither Amazon nor the Office of the President are delivering help via WhatsApp messages

Two Spanish language giveaways circulating on WhatsApp purporting to be sponsored by Amazon have been urging users to click a link and suggest people can win money by doing so. 

One of them was promoted with an emblem that looks similar to an official government seal. That scheme, claims Amazon is delivering food boxes across the country to families in need who have been impacted by the pandemic. The post directs users to click on a link to submit their request. 

Fact Check: A spokesperson from Amazon said both giveaway schemes are fake and that the company did not have anything to do with those campaigns. 

Doctora Polo, The Rock, Vin Diesel and Lionel Messi are not helping those who click these posts

Documented received several giveaway schemes being promoted on Facebook by accounts alleging to be celebrities offering to send money to followers who share the posts with their social network. 

Fact Check: Facebook was unable to verify whether the Facebook posts were scams at press time but offered Documented information on how the company tackles scams and how users can avoid them. 

Facebook told Documented that people should not accept suspicious requests and urged users to report suspicious messages to the company right away. Facebook also said people should be cautious of accounts asking you for money who you do not know in person, pages representing large companies, organizations or public figures that are not verified as well as people claiming to be a friend or relative in an emergency or people who misrepresent where they are located. 

Although Facebook was unable to confirm the accounts and offers at press time, Narang told Documented the accounts were more than likely scams targeting Latinos in need. 

Narang explained that scammers often set up Facebook accounts purporting to be celebrities and urge their followers to share posts to gain more followers. 

Once scammers have garnered a large following base, Narang said scammers will either change their profile completely and keep the friends they amassed from the viral posts, or will sell that account on underground markets for profit. 

“Even though you’ve done nothing to give them money, just by you sharing the post and maybe following the page and liking it, you’re helping to amplify that profile in order for them to sell it,” Narang said. 

If you have more proof of messages that are targeting Latino immigrants via messaging platforms, please alert us here.

If you want to become a member of our community on WhatsApp, go here.

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