A Look Back at 2022’s Worst Walmart Scams

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Yaniv Masjedi

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    What Are the Most Common Walmart Scams?

    With about 230 million customer in-store visits each week and many more online, Walmart retains its title as the world’s biggest retailer [*]. 

    Walmart is a household name, so you’re more likely to trust messages from people who claim to represent the company. This makes Walmart shoppers a prime target for cybercriminals.

    Walmart scammers trick victims into sending them money, gift cards, or sensitive information that can be used for identity theft. 

    If you or your family shop at Walmart, you need to be aware of the common Walmart scams and how to protect yourself. 

    How Do Walmart Scams Work?

    Walmart scams occur when fraudsters pose as Walmart officials to steal your sensitive information, or when criminals use Walmart gift cards during a scam or fraud.

     There are a number of different types of Walmart scams, but almost all of them follow one of these patterns: 

    • Criminals send you phishing emails or text messages (a.k.a. smishing), or get you on a phone call claiming to be from Walmart and then ask you to provide your personal and financial information.
    • Scammers impersonate government officials or other people you trust and ask you to buy and send untraceable and nonrefundable Walmart gift cards. 
    • Cybercriminals contact you or use pop-up ads and social media to get you to submit your financial information in exchange for a “free gift” or “special prize” from Walmart.

    While the patterns of the scams are the same, fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to pull them off and trick you. So what are the latest Walmart scams you should be aware of?

    Take action: If you’ve been the victim of a Walmart scam, your bank account, email, and other online accounts could be at risk. Try Aura’s identity theft protection free for 14 days to secure your identity against scammers.

    Don’t Get Scammed! How To Protect Yourself From Walmart Scams

    Walmart scammers can do serious damage — either by tricking you into sending them money or using your personal information to steal your identity. If you want to stay safe, you need to proactively protect yourself against the latest Walmart scams.

    Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from Walmart scams: 

    1. Never click on links in unsolicited emails or texts. Walmart scammers will often send you emails or texts that try to get you to click on a link. If you do, you’ll be taken to a fake website that steals your personal information. If you think there’s an issue, always go directly to Walmart.com and sign into your account to make sure you’re on the right page.
    2. Regularly check your credit report and bank statements. Walmart scammers almost always want one thing: access to your financial accounts. Keep a keen eye out for the warning signs that you’ve been scammed, including strange charges on your bank statement or accounts you don’t recognize. An identity theft protection service like Aura can monitor your credit and statements for you and alert you to any signs of fraud. 
    3. Consider signing up for identity theft protection. It’s impossible to constantly monitor your personal, financial, and online accounts. Instead, Aura’s top-rated identity theft protection monitors your most sensitive personal information for you. If a Walmart scammer tries to access your accounts or use your credit card details, Aura can help you take action before it’s too late. Try Aura’s 14-day free trial for immediate protection while you’re most vulnerable.

    The 10 Latest Walmart Scams (and How To Identify Them)

    1. Scammers pretend to hire you as a Walmart mystery shopper
    2. Fake “Walmart attempted delivery” notifications
    3. Fake Walmart online survey scams
    4. Posting fake Walmart giveaways or “special offers” on social media 
    5. Setting up phishing websites offering free Walmart prizes
    6. Pretending to offer support from Walmart’s Pandemic Relief Program
    7. Setting up fraudulent Walmart gift card “balance-checking” websites
    8. Sending fake Walmart.com password reset emails
    9. Pretending to be from the IRS and requesting Walmart gift cards
    10. Selling fake or spent Walmart gift cards on Facebook Marketplace

    1. Scammers pretend to hire you as a Walmart mystery shopper 

    Mystery shoppers pretend to be customers in order to evaluate the staff and appearance of a store. It’s a legitimate job. But the Better Business Bureau has warned that fraudsters are using secret shopping as a way to scam Walmart shoppers [*]. 

    Here’s an example of how the secret shopper scam works.

    In 2021, a woman named Kelly Hustedde received a fake text message asking her if she wanted to be a secret shopper for Walmart. She agreed and provided her name, email, address, and phone number

    A week later, she received a check for $2,350 and instructions to buy $2,000 worth of gift cards from two different Walmart locations.

    Luckily, Kelly realized it was a scam and reported it to her local law enforcement agency. But others don’t catch on as quickly. 

    To complete the “job,” the fake employer will ask you to buy gift cards and send them the numbers. A week or so later, the check comes back as fraudulent and the bank takes the money from your account instead.  

    Warning signs of a Walmart mystery shopper scam:

    • You receive an unsolicited offer to become a mystery shopper.
    • The letter or email uses outdated Walmart branding (for example, “Wal-Mart” or “WAL-MART” instead of “Walmart”).
    • You’re asked to buy gift cards and send the physical cards or numbers to someone.
    • The email or letter doesn’t come from an email address with the "@walmart.com" domain.

    What to do: If you receive an unsolicited message asking you to be a mystery shopper, don’t open or reply to it. And if you receive a check in the mail from “Walmart” or some company claiming to represent them as secret shoppers, don’t attempt to cash it. 

    No legitimate company will send you a check without signing an agreement first. Instead, you should file a report with the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

    📚 Related: How To Identify Job Scams: Watch Out for These Red Flags

    2. Fake “Walmart attempted delivery” notifications

    If your Walmart order delivery fails because the delivery person couldn’t find your address, Walmart will send you an email asking you to update your mailing address

    Walmart scammers do the same thing. 

    The fake email usually has a subject line that reads: Your Failed Package Delivery Notification ID#.  

    There will also be an “Update Address” button at the bottom of the email or a QR code to scan. If you click on the button or scan the code, this phishing link will either take you to a site designed to steal your sensitive information or download malware onto your device.

    Because millions of people order goods from Walmart every month, scammers know there’s a good chance you could believe this is a real message. (Also, be cautious of the latest delivery scam: UPS scam text messages.)

    Warning signs of fake address update request scams:

    • The message asks you to enter your address and other information somewhere other than your official Walmart.com account.
    • The order number doesn’t match the ones in your order history (or you aren’t expecting an order from Walmart at all).
    • The message uses threatening or urgent language to try to get you to act quickly to rectify the “issue”.
    • The “From” email address does not follow this format: something@walmart.com.

    What to do: If you placed a Walmart order and you receive a failed delivery/address update email, go to the main website immediately to confirm whether there’s an issue with your delivery. 

    If you sent your address to the scammer, remove your saved payment methods from Walmart's website immediately. Report the phishing email scam to Walmart at onlineabuse@walmart.com. Then, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    📚 Related: What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed Online & How To Report It

    3. Fake Walmart online survey scams

    Walmart occasionally invites customers to take an online survey about their shopping experience. In return, you’ll get a small gift card or other compensation. 

    But scammers create fake Walmart online surveys to gain access to sensitive information they can use for identity theft or financial fraud

    These phishing scams mostly come in the form of emails claiming to be from Walmart. But you’ll also see them as pop-up ads on websites. 

    Whatever method they use to target you, the scam is the same. You’ll be asked standard questions about Walmart and then asked to provide personal information or even financial details to receive your “reward”. But whatever you provide goes straight to the scammers.  

    Warning signs of Walmart online survey scams: 

    • The email has spelling errors that are easy to miss if you read quickly (for example, “Walmrat” instead of “Walmart”).
    • The pop-up or message uses outdated Walmart logos (e.g. “Wal-Mart” instead of “Walmart”).
    • The survey requires you and your friends to complete several steps to receive a “free” gift card or special prizes.
    • You’re asked to provide banking details to receive your prize.

    What to do: If you get random messages that ask you to complete a Walmart survey in exchange for a gift, don’t open or reply to it. If you accidentally enter any sensitive information, go through the steps to secure your identity and then file a claim with the FTC or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

    📚 Related: How To Tell If An Email Is From a Scammer [With Examples]

    4. Posting fake Walmart giveaways or “special offers” on social media

    Many retail companies organize social media giveaways. So it’s no surprise that scammers have hijacked this method to target people.  

    Last year, Walmart published a Facebook post stating that they were giving away gift bags and a $75 voucher to lucky customers in honor of the company going plastic-bag-free. 

    Except the post and offer was not actually made by Walmart.  

    Example of a Walmart scam on social media
    Source: Fox8

    It’s easy enough for scammers to download official Walmart logos and images to use in these posts. But if you click on the “Validate” button, you’ll be taken to an unsecured website where your personal information is stolen. 

    Warning signs of fake Walmart social media giveaway posts: 

    • Blurry images that might not fit the theme of the giveaway.
    • The giveaway is posted by an unverified social media page. (For example, on Facebook, the page should have a blue checkmark next to its name).
    • Poor spelling and punctuation.
    • A button that takes you to an unsecured site. (This means that the site uses HTTP, not HTTPS, in its URL).

    What to do: If you are suspicious of a Walmart social media post, go to the page that posted it. If it is an official Facebook or Twitter page, you will see a white or blue check mark at the end of the name. 

    A verified page doesn’t automatically mean the contest is safe. Check for other signs of a fake social media page, like strange links and poor spelling. You can also contact Walmart at 1-800-925-6278 (1-800-WALMART) and ask if the post and offer are real.

    Take action: If you accidentally give scammers your personal data, they could take out loans in your name or empty your bank account. Try an identity theft protection service to monitor your finances and alert you to fraud.

    5. Setting up phishing websites offering free Walmart prizes 

    Like phishing emails, scammers set up fake websites that look identical to the real Walmart website. These phishing websites display a pop-up window that states that visitors have the chance to win a special prize courtesy of Walmart sweepstakes

    If you click the link in the pop-up window or provide any sensitive information, you risk becoming a victim of identity theft, monetary loss, privacy problems, and more.

    Example of a scam Walmart facebook giveaway
    Source: Bitdefender

    Warning signs of free Walmart prizes scams:

    • The pop-up window asks you to spin the wheel to claim special prizes or gift cards from Walmart. 
    • You have to provide sensitive information (full name, address, phone number, credit card details, etc.) before you can claim a prize.
    • The “Claim Your Prize” button leads to a malfunctioning website.

    What to do: Be wary of phishing websites and never enter your information on them. Also educate your loved ones about these scam sites and the risk of family identity theft.

    📚 Related: How To Spot (and Avoid) Publishers Clearing House Scams

    6. Pretending to offer support from Walmart’s Pandemic Relief Program

    Scammers are also pretending to be from Walmart’s charities — Walmart.org and the Walmart Foundation — and offering Pandemic Relief payments. But these are just one of the many Covid scams out there. 

    If you click on the link, the scammers will ask you to complete a form that steals your sensitive information or even to wire them money in order to “reserve” a government stimulus check.

    Neither of Walmart’s charitable divisions give money to individuals. And neither will ever send text messages or emails seeking applications for grants. 

    Example scam Walmart offer text message
    Source: OnlineThreatAlerts.com

    Warning signs of fake grant or pandemic relief funds scams:

    • Asking you to verify your personal and/or banking information to receive your “stimulus check”.
    • Mailing a bogus check and telling you to call a number to cash it.
    • Asking you to sign your economic impact payment check over to them.

    What to do: If you get an email or scam text message like this, don’t touch it. Instead, check the official Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov to verify that the information on the message is real. If it’s not, forward the message to phishing@irs.gov.

    📚 Related: Types of Google Play Gift Card Scams and How to Report It

    7. Setting up fraudulent Walmart gift card “balance-checking” websites

    Scammers love gift cards because they’re nearly impossible to trace once they’ve been sent out. If they get access to your Walmart gift card numbers, they can shop online and use up your balance before you realize it. 

    One of the ways they try to get your Walmart gift cards is by creating fake “gift card balance-checking” websites. These sites look like they’re from Walmart, but are really designed to steal your gift card numbers. 

    When you enter your numbers, the site will automatically check them using the real balance checker (so you don’t become suspicious). But the scammers will also have access to your card details. 

    Warning signs of a fake Walmart “gift card balance-checker” website:

    • The site is unsecured, meaning it uses “HTTP” and not “HTTPS” in its URL. It should also have a padlock symbol next to its URL. 
    • The “checker” isn’t on the official walmart.com domain. 
    • When you enter your gift card numbers, it’s unable to find the card or give you your balance. 

    What to do: Don’t click on random links or the first search result that comes up when looking for a way to check your gift card balance. Instead, make sure that you only use the official Walmart.com site. Also, never provide gift card numbers or PINs to people online.

    How to tell if a website is secure or not

    8. Sending fake Walmart.com password-reset emails

    Walmart is known for their big-box stores. But their online shop is growing at a rate that’s faster than even Amazon [*]. 

    With more people shopping on Walmart online, scammers have started targeting them with fake password-reset emails. 

    In this scam, you receive an email claiming your Walmart.com account has been hacked and that you need to reset your account and password. 

    The email will look legitimate, and so will the site where it takes you. But when you enter your info, it’s stolen by hackers who can then use it to make fraudulent purchases or steal your stored credit card numbers.  

    Warning signs of a fake Walmart.com password-reset email:

    • When you hover over or click on the “From” name, it doesn’t come from an official walmart.com email address.
    • When you click on the link, the site you’re taken to is not secure. 
    • The email contains spelling or grammar errors or uses threatening language.

    What to do: If you think your Walmart.com login has been compromised, sign in to your account through the official website to change your password. Never enter your password on a site that was linked to you from an email. Always go to the official log-in page instead.

    Aura antivirus software with phishing protection
    Aura’s antivirus software with phishing protection will warn you if a site is trying to steal your information. This way, you don’t have to worry about checking every single URL as you browse and shop online.

    9. Pretending to be from the IRS and requesting Walmart gift cards

    Walmart gift cards are a common currency for fraudsters. 

    Especially during tax season, scammers use the stress of dealing with the IRS to get you to pay them in gift cards. In this scam, you’ll receive a notice saying you owe taxes or that there’s a warrant out for your arrest due to tax evasion. 

    If you respond to the message or call, they’ll keep you on the phone while you buy Walmart gift cards and read the numbers off to them. (They might also ask you to pay with a wire transfer.)

    There are other variations to the Walmart gift card scam, such as when fraudsters pretend your loved one is in danger and you need to send them gift cards as payment, or when they pretend to be tech support from the Best Buy Geek Squad or a company like Apple, Microsoft, or Netflix.

    Warning signs of an imposter Walmart gift card scam: 

    • You receive an unsolicited message from the IRS, FBI, or other agency. These government entities will not email or call you about issues. 
    • They repeatedly use information like your SSN to convince you they’re legitimate. 
    • The scammer asks you to buy gift cards at a Walmart store and send them the PINs and gift card numbers.
    • They threaten you or a loved one if you don’t pay immediately.
    • They won’t let you hang up and call them back. 

    What to do: Be alert for phone calls and emails from people who claim to be from the IRS or other government agencies. These groups will not call you to discuss issues. If you get a call, ask for the speaker’s name and extension and then hang up and call back using the official IRS phone number. 

    If you receive an email from an impostor claiming to be a government employee, don’t click on any links or attachments in it. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov to inform the IRS.  

    Take action: Protect yourself from the risks of identity theft and fraud with Aura’s $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance. Try Aura free for 14 days to see if it’s right for you.

    10. Selling fake or spent Walmart gift cards on Facebook Marketplace

    Many people go on sites like Facebook Marketplace to buy gift cards at a discount. But even if these look brand new and untampered with, scammers can steal the numbers on them before you buy them. 

    They’ll even let you check the balance online before you pick them up. But after you do, they’ll spend the money quickly.

    This scam can even happen with gift cards you buy directly from Walmart. All a scammer needs to do is grab a stack of them, lift the tape concealing the PIN, and write it down. Then, they’re free to spend the money online before you have a chance to use it. 

    Warning signs of a fake or spent Walmart gift card:

    • The card or security tape over the PIN looks like it's been physically tampered with. 
    • The gift cards are out in the open and not behind a customer service desk. 
    • Someone is selling a gift card at a discounted price. 

    What to do: Only buy Walmart gift cards that are kept in a secure location. Double-check that they haven’t been tampered with before you buy them, as Walmart doesn’t offer fraud protection against gift card purchases.

    📚 Related: Why Scammers Want Gift Cards (and How To Avoid Gift Card Scams)

    What Should You Do If You’re The Victim of a Walmart Scam?

    There are different steps to take depending on the type of Walmart scam you’ve fallen for.  

    The first thing you should always do is ensure your identity is secure. If you think your identity has been stolen, you should:

    • Contact your bank, credit card company, and other lenders to alert them.
    • File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov.
    • Place a fraud alert with one of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. 
    • File a police report with your local law enforcement agency.
    • Report the fraud to the FTC and the IC3.
    • Update all your online accounts with secure passwords and set up a password manager and two-factor authentication using an authenticator app (not SMS).
    • Review your credit report for fraudulent activity. You can get a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
    • Consider signing up for identity theft protection. For example, Aura monitors all your online and financial accounts for signs of fraud. We’ll let you know if your accounts have been compromised or if someone is using your name to take out loans, open new accounts, or even commit crimes. Plus, you’re covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft.

    Once your identity is secure, it’s time to handle the other potential risks of Walmart scams.

    📚 Related: 14 Hidden Dangers of Identity Theft That Can Ruin Your Life

    Aura credit monitoring and identity theft protection
    Source: Aura credit monitoring

    Did you click on a link in a Walmart phishing email?

    • Immediately disconnect your device from the internet. Turn off Wi-Fi and carrier data on your device to stop malware from sending scammers your info.
    • Regularly backup your files on a USB, external hard drive, or the cloud. Focus on protecting sensitive documents first. 
    • Install an antivirus and malware protection software and run a complete scan on your device. If you find any malware, follow the software’s instructions to remove or quarantine it. 
    Aura antivirus with malware protection
    Source: Aura VPN
    • Change your online credentials immediately (email, social media, online banking, shopping accounts, etc.).
    • Set up fraud alerts on your bank accounts and credit cards. If someone has access to your banking information and is using it for fraudulent transactions, you’ll be notified right away.

    Did you send a scammer Walmart gift cards?

    If you paid a scammer with a Walmart gift card, there’s no way to get a refund, unfortunately. Just watch out for further gift card scams

    You should also report the scam to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov and file a report at your local police department.

    Did someone lock you out of your Walmart.com account?

    If someone locks you out of your Walmart.com account, contact their Customer Support team at 1-800-925-6278 (1-800-WALMART) to resolve the issue. 

    The Bottom Line: Protect Yourself From Walmart Scams

    Scammers go where they have the highest chance of getting away undetected. Unfortunately, the sheer size of Walmart makes it a prime target for criminals and scammers. 

    But this doesn’t mean you need to stop shopping at Walmart.

    Instead, stay aware of the latest Walmart scams and make sure you’re following the best practices for shopping online safely and protecting your identity from financial fraud and identity theft.

    For added protection and peace of mind, consider signing up for Aura. We’ll monitor all your online accounts, sensitive information like your SSN and ID, and financial accounts for signs of fraud or identity theft. 

    With Aura, you can shop and browse knowing your identity is safe from scammers.

    Ready for ironclad identity theft protection? Try Aura 14-days free.

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