Consumer Alert: Starbucks gift card e-mail scam

Consumer Alert: Starbucks gift card e-mail scam

(WOIO) - You know how I love my

. So I took particular notice to a new scam involving the coffee company. Crooks are blasting out phony e-mails claiming a major telephone company is offering you a gift card for their coffee. But if you reply, you'll get burned.

Most people enjoy a cup of coffee. That's why cyber crooks hope your fix for the beverage will cloud your judgment. They're betting you'll be quick to reply to a bogus e-mail.

It looks real enough and claims AT&T is offering you a $20 Starbucks gift card, including a security code. The e-mail says all you have to do is click a link, print the offer, and take it to Starbucks. 

But there is no coffee or gift card waiting on you. AT&T says the e-mail offer is not from them. The company confirms it's a scam that will install a virus on your computer if you click the link.

AT&T reminds consumers that crooks can easily make an e-mail look like it's coming from a legitimate company. 

AT&T recommends the following tips to protect yourself against phishing:

• Be aware that e-mail headers can be forged easily, so the posing sender may not be the real sender.

• Avoid providing or filling out forms via e-mail because the data is not secure.

• Realize that Internet scammers can create realistic forgeries of websites, so avoid clicking on links in an unsolicited e-mail message. Go directly to the company's website and fill out information there.

• Ensure that a website is secure by checking to see whether there is an "s" after the "http" in the address bar on your screen, as well as a lock icon at the bottom of the screen. Both are indicators that the site is secure.

• Don't forget, these threats can occur on mobile devices, too. Use the Lookout app to protect your mobile device against viruses, malware and spyware. With Lookout, you can browse, download, shop, and pay with confidence. Lookout is available preloaded on select AT&T devices. A version of Lookout is available for download from Google Play or iTunes.

As for the fake e-mail, cyber experts say if you fall for it, it will install a virus on your computer and crooks will be able to steal your passwords, plus send you other fake e-mails. When it comes to what's in your inbox, always be skeptical.

If you think you've been a victim, make sure to run your anti-virus software and keep an eye on your accounts for irregular activity. 

Find more information on fraud from the U.S. Department of Justice, including articles on identity theft and tips to avoid falling victim.

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