As an experienced cybersecurity professional, I‘ve seen all kinds of creative scams targeting major retailers like Walmart. With over 140 million weekly shoppers flocking to Walmart online and in stores, it‘s no surprise scammers focus on this brand.
In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll uncover the latest Walmart phishing tactics, provide data-backed fraud statistics, and give you pro tips to avoid becoming a victim. My goal is to help you recognize shady activity targeting your hard-earned money and personal data.
Let‘s get started protecting your next Walmart run.
How Safe is Walmart for Online Shopping?
Before we dive into specific scams, I want to stress that Walmart invests heavily in cybersecurity and fraud prevention across its e-commerce platforms. As the world‘s largest company by revenue, they have vast resources dedicated to ensuring a safe customer experience. This includes:
Dedicated security operations teams: Walmart has specialized cybersecurity units monitoring all digital platforms globally 24/7. If suspicious activity is detected, they can respond in real-time.
Powerful AI and analytics: Advanced machine learning algorithms flag abnormal behaviors behind the scenes. This allows Walmart to identify emerging fraud patterns and possible vulnerabilities.
Ongoing staff training: Walmart employees complete mandatory cybersecurity and fraud identification courses. This keeps retail staff alert to warning signs when interacting directly with customers.
Partnerships with law enforcement: Walmart collaborates closely with agencies like the FBI to track down cyber criminals behind large-scale fraud operations. Their expertise aids investigations.
In the first half of 2022 alone, Walmart intercepted over $4 million in gift card scams targeting older shoppers. Their cybersecurity teams also monitor social media closely for fraud activities using the Walmart name.
However, Walmart‘s immense customer base still makes it an attractive target for scammers. The company reports blocking over 2 million fraudulent credit card transactions monthly on average. We‘ll cover the specific scams allowing criminals to slip through the cracks next.
6 Common Walmart Scams to Know
Cyber thieves are constantly evolving their tactics to take advantage of unsuspecting Walmart shoppers. Here are the most prevalent ruses I‘m seeing right now:
1. Fake Rewards and Gift Cards
This ubiquitous scam starts with an email, phone call or text claiming you‘ve won a Walmart gift card or other prize. To claim your reward, you just need to share some personal information or pay a small "processing fee."
The criminals typically spoof official Walmart branding to appear legitimate. But Walmart does not cold contact people promising free gifts or cards.
In 2021, victims lost $148 million to gift card scams like these according to the FTC. It‘s wise to ignore any random calls or messages about Walmart rewards. Profile updates or payments should only be made directly through Walmart‘s official websites or apps.
2. Walmart Survey Scams
After a Walmart purchase, you may receive what looks like an official email survey promising a gift card or cash for your feedback. But clicking the link sends you to a fake lookalike site controlled by scammers phishing for your personal data.
Sometimes they‘ll ask for more than just contact info, including account passwords, Social Security numbers and other valuable identity theft material. Providing such data allows criminals to steal your identity and make fraudulent purchases under your name.
Walmart does offer legitimate customer satisfaction surveys, but they‘re hosted securely on Walmart‘s official domain. If you receive a suspicious survey offer, report the phishing attempt to Walmart immediately.
3. Fraudulent Charity Requests
This scam tactic relies on Walmart‘s generally trusted brand and community connections. You may receive an email, phone call or mailer asking you to make a tax-deductible donation to a charity that claims to help Walmart associates in need.
The message urges you to submit payment to support Walmart staff facing hardships. But in reality, these pleas come from scammers who pocket donations while Walmart and their employees receive nothing.
Walmart reports a 33% increase in charity scams during the 2021 holiday season compared to 2020. Take time to independently verify any unfamiliar charities before providing payment or personal information to avoid supporting scammers.
4. Account Verification Requests
Imagine receiving an email or text from a trusted Walmart email address asking you to verify your account immediately. The message may claim your account will be locked without quick action.
This is a sneaky phishing attempt to capture your login credentials or install malware. The scammers leverage the trusted Walmart brand while asking you to click shady links or provide sensitive identity details.
Walmart will never proactively reach out by phone or email demanding account verification without you contacting them first regarding suspicious activity. If you receive such a message, report the phishing attempt directly to Walmart.
5. Money Transfer Requests
Criminals know Walmart offers convenient money transfer and money order services through Walmart2Walmart. Scammers may contact you posing as a desperate family member or friend in need of quick financial assistance.
If you take the bait and send the money transfer, you‘ll later learn your real family or friend is just fine and made no such request. Unfortunately, money transfers are very difficult to reverse once completed, leaving you with no recourse.
Losses to money transfer scams grew 22% to $338 million in 2021 based on FTC data, as more business shifted online during the pandemic. Always independently verify money transfer requests before sending any funds.
6. Fake Walmart Websites
Finally, lookout for fake Walmart websites masquerading as the real thing to steal your data. Scammers register domains using misspellings, alternate extensions or terms like "Walmart-Online" hoping you don‘t notice.
The site may look exactly like Walmart.com at first glance. But any login or payment details you enter will go straight to criminals rather than Walmart‘s actual networks. This allows your accounts to be quickly compromised.
One study found over 13,000 active fake Walmart websites. Be extra diligent about checking the domain name before entering any sensitive information or downloading anything to avoid devastating malware infections.
Expert Tips to Avoid Walmart Scams
Now that you know the most common Walmart scams to watch for, here are my top pro tips to avoid becoming a victim:
Double check senders: Any email or text from Walmart will come from an official company domain. Watch for subtle misspellings or altered addresses.
Avoid unknown numbers: Let unknown callers go to voicemail. Walmart typically won‘t call proactively about account issues unless you contact them first.
Verify sites carefully: Only login via bookmarked legitimate Walmart sites. Searching online can redirect you to fake lookalike domains.
Don‘t click embedded links: Check message headers for actual URLs. Never click links in unexpected emails – type Walmart.com manually.
Use unique passwords: Have different complex passwords across all accounts. Stolen Walmart logins can lead to compromising other services.
Install antivirus software: Use a trusted program to scan for and block malicious sites attempting to steal your data.
Monitor accounts routinely: Frequently check card statements and Walmart order history for any unauthorized transactions.
Report all scams: Contact Walmart ASAP if you encounter a phishing attempt using their name. Helps protect other shoppers.
Staying vigilant takes a bit more time but is the best way to protect your money and identity from Walmart scammers.
What To Do Immediately if Scammed
If a scam involving Walmart does trick you, speed is critical to limit damages. Here are the steps I‘d recommend:
Call banks & card issuers: Report fraudulent transactions right away so payments can be stopped and cards canceled quickly.
Change passwords: If you shared Walmart login credentials, update to a new complex password immediately. Don‘t reuse old ones.
Contact Walmart: Alert their fraud team via email with details on how you were targeted, to aid investigations.
Place fraud alerts: Consider requesting fraud alerts on credit reports to protect your identity if it was compromised.
File police reports: Report the crime to your local police and to agencies like the FBI‘s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Monitor your credit: Check credit reports frequently for signs of identity theft and request credit freezes if necessary through Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Enroll in credit monitoring: Consider leveraging monitoring services such as IdentityForce, IdentityIQ or LifeLock which provide extra identity theft protection.
The faster you act, the less opportunity criminals have to exploit compromised accounts or sell stolen personal data. Don‘t be embarrassed if scammed – even cybersecurity experts can be fooled.
Walmart Scams Data and Statistics
Understanding key fraud statistics provides deeper insight into the prevalence of scams targeting Walmart and their customers:
Javelin Research finds that nearly 5 million Americans were victims of some type of fraud in 2021 alone.
The FBI‘s Internet Crime Complaint Center saw a 33% jump in reported losses to cybercrime between 2019 and 2020.
Losses to romance scams jumped 79% to $547 million in 2021, as scammers exploited isolation from the pandemic.
The FTC received over 2.8 million fraud reports in 2021 with nearly $6 billion in total losses reported directly by consumers.
Fraud losses to online retail doubled from 8% in 2019 to 16% in 2020 according to the FTC, showing criminals aggressively moving to e-commerce scams.
A study by Bolster found that 36% of digital retail transactions are potentially fraudulent, with account takeovers being the fastest growing tactic.
Research from Akamai found retail to be the #1 industry targeted by credential stuffing attacks, aiming to break into consumer accounts.
The FBI reports Business Email Compromise scams targeting retailers and suppliers surpassing $2.4 billion in losses during 2021.
These sobering statistics make it clear that scammers are zeroing in on major retail brands like Walmart that offer simple access to your money and identity. Staying aware of the latest fraud strategies is crucial.
Walmart Scams – Frequently Asked Questions
To help you stay secure during your Walmart shopping activities, here are answers to some frequently asked questions I receive:
Are gift cards purchased on Walmart.com legit?
Yes, Walmart gift cards bought directly via Walmart‘s official website or in their stores can be trusted. Avoid sites offering discounted or "free" Walmart gift cards which are scams.
Can Walmart accounts get hacked?
Walmart accounts can become compromised, typically when customers are tricked into sharing login credentials via phishing scams. Use complex unique passwords and avoid entering info on unknown sites.
Is the Walmart shopping app safe to use?
The legitimate Walmart app from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store is completely safe for shopping. Make sure to download the real app, as fake ones exist.
Can you get scammed using Walmart Pay?
Walmart Pay itself is secure. However, if scammers gain access to your Walmart account, they could potentially use saved cards on file to make fraudulent purchases through Walmart Pay.
Are Walmart survey sites legitimate?
Some survey sites pretending to be from Walmart are scams. Safest bet is to only visit survey.walmart.com which is hosted on their official domain to provide feedback.
Can Walmart.com sell counterfeit items?
Walmart has end-to-end verification, but some fake items can occasionally slip through from third-party Marketplace sellers. Stick to items shipped and sold directly by Walmart to be safest.
The Bottom Line
Walmart strives to create a convenient and rewarding shopping experience for their loyal customers. Unfortunately, criminals aggressively target major retailers hoping to steal consumer cash and data. Falling for Walmart scams can have devastating financial and identity theft impacts.
I hope this outline of common Walmart fraud tactics, expert advice and supporting statistics helps you stay alert and protected during your Walmart shopping trips. Feel free to reach out with any other Walmart security questions you may have!