These days, Netflix is one of the kings of the TV and movie world. From a simple startup that had the radical idea of sending DVDs (remember those!) to your house by mail (remember that!) in 1997, it has now become the seventh-largest source of entertainment in the world, producing their own films and shows.
So with 139 million subscribers to Netflix around the world as of 2019, as reported by CNN, it’s safe to say that you or someone you know has an account. This also means that internet scammers know where to go when they’re trying to make some quick and easy money!
NETFLIX WARNING: Netflix customers to stay vigilant and double check emails that appear to be sent from Netflix before offering up any of their personal information.
Earlier this year, an officer at the police department in Solon, Ohio, received an ordinary-looking message that claimed to be from the Netflix customer service team, stating “we’re having some trouble with your current billing information. We’ll try again, but in the meantime you may want to update your payment details.”
The officer in question reposted the message on Facebook, warning readers that in fact, this was a scam attempt. How did he know? Well, to start with, the scammers didn’t do much research about him—he didn’t have a Netflix account!
As the officer wrote on the Solon Police department page, “criminals want you to click the links, so that you voluntarily give your personal identifying information away. It is very successful.” After all, most people who are loving the latest season of Stranger Things or doing some nostalgia binge watching of Friends definitely don’t want their subscription to be put on hold.
So some of them will panic and click on the link before even really looking at it. What happens next? You might be redirected to a fairly legitimate-looking page that asks to enter a new payment method such as a credit card or Paypal account, or just reconfirm an old one. Armed with all your banking information, the criminals can then help themselves to a shopping spree at your expense!
As the Solon Police department explained, “the links could also be a way to install malware on your computer.” So even if you get suspicious at the last minute and refuse to give your card information, the damage might already be done.
We talk about scams from time to time. Here's an example of an email phishing attempt that I received. (Biggest clue…
But how do you know when a message is real and when it’s a scam? The Solon Police department encouraged its followers to read through the message and identify anything they thought was fishy. As with most scams, once you slow down and look closer, there are plenty of red flags that can be spotted.
To begin with, the message begins “Hi Dear,” which most people found hilarious and outrageous. Surely the entertainment company that uses your information to predict what kinds of TV and films you like watching will be able to remember your name!
Besides, people noticed strange things at the bottom of the page, such as a customer service phone number that was in British rather than U.S. format. The word “center” was also spelled the British way, “centre,” suggesting this wasn’t Netflix USA that an American customer would be registered with.
Others noticed that the company is listed as “?Netflix B.V. International?” at the very bottom of the message. You probably don’t want to give your money to a company that isn’t sure about its own name, much less yours! What’s a person to do in a case like this?
First, read through the message carefully. Does it look like ones you received before and come from the same email address? Second, is there any way to contact the company aside from clicking on that particular link? If so, do that and verify what the email is saying. Third, if you do think you have a scam, report it to the company and the police as soon as possible. You’ll be saving other customers lots of time and money.
So remember to think before you click, or else you might end up like Facebook commenter Jeanine Thrasher, who wrote “I actually (stupidly) fell for this. They got into my bank account and spent over $800 before I caught it.” Better safe than sorry!
Last but not least, check out some tips from Netflix’s Help Center about staying safe!