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BBB Scam Alert: Don’t fall for fake streaming service activation prompts

Almost 80 percent of U.S. households have signed up for a streaming service such as Netflix, Disney+, PBS Passport or Hulu, and the Better Business Bureau warns consumers to be careful when activating their accounts.

Unfortunately, scammers are trying to steal login information and other personal data with fake websites that appear to come from the streaming service provider.

How the scam works

You purchased a subscription to a streaming service. To activate it, you need to log in on your web browser. A quick search brings up several links with the streaming service’s official name. You click on the first result.

But the website doesn’t look quite right. For example, as soon as you click the link, the site prompts you to update your web browser. Scammers have set up a lookalike website to trick you into downloading malware. If you click “Update” or any other button, you could download a virus that gives scammers access to your personal information. It’s best to close the page immediately.

Other times, when you click on the search result, you’re directed to a website that features the official logo and branding of your streaming service. But it looks a little (and sometimes a lot) different than what you remember. If you enter your user ID and password on a lookalike site, it goes into the hands of scammers. These con artists then have the information they need to access your real account on the official website – as well as anywhere else you use that username and password.

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How to avoid streaming service scams

Always double check that you are visiting an official website. Scammers can make fake websites look legitimate in search engine results, but they can’t copy a website’s official URL. Before you click on a website, take a close look at the URL. Check to that it is spelled correctly. Scammers hope you’ll overlook this and click without a second thought.

Be wary of ads and sponsored links. Sometimes scammers use ads to get their lookalike website to appear first in the search results.

Remember, just because a website is at the top of the list doesn’t mean it’s the official website.

Be careful with your login information. Always make sure you are on an official website before entering your username and password. Never enter this information into third-party websites. Keep in mind, too, that legitimate customer service representatives generally do not ask for passwords over the phone or through an email.

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, please report it on BBB Scam Tracker.

About the Author

Vee Daniel is President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Upstate SC. Prior to joining the BBB, Daniel served as Director of Events & Membership Services for the Home Builders Association of South Carolina and Executive Officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Spartanburg.

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