Everything You Need To Know About The Latest Costco Scam

Costco is not giving you free groceries. A scam has been floating around with some official-looking images and language stating, "My name is Craig Jelinekand I'm the CEO of Costco Inc. To celebrate our 35th Birthday, Every single person who shaᴦes and comments in the next 24hrs will get one of these Christmas Food Box delivered straight to their door..." (via Snopes). This Costco scam is one among many schemes seeking to capitalize on the 50.4 million households that the nonprofit Feeding America estimates are experiencing food insecurity this year. Exploiting hungry people is terrible, but there are ways you can combat this type of scam. 

Report scams to regulatory authorities to help prevent predators from taking advantage of others. Online scams through email or social media can first be reported with simple in-program functions to your provider like flagging a Google email or using the "report" function on Facebook. You can also report online scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) both online and via phone (via USA.gov). Federal agencies use scam reporting to track patterns and trends that work to better stop these false advertisements. If you lost money, you can also report the sender to your local authorities, including the police. 

Identifying a scam

This particular scam had some red flags that helped identify the fraud. A reverse image search would have turned up highly similar images but substituted Aldi for Costco. Chances are two competing stores would not run identical giveaways down to the picture. In addition, this particular image showed itself as several years old and not a recent Costco share. In multi-image posts that also included an image of Costco CEO Craig Jelinek (whose photo you can see in this Medium article), the text of the message was never officially shared by the CEO himself, nor was it posted to Costco's page.

As Snopes notes, another indicator for this scam originally shared on social media was the source of the share from "Costco US," whereas Costco's real page is called "Costco." Imposters can often create or purchase lookalike accounts to imitate real brands. You can also do the math to see this offer was bogus. "Each Food box contains groceries worth of $250 and a $35 Costco voucher," the post tells readers, adding, "Make sure you validate your entry." Costco may be a retail giant, but it's unlikely they can afford to give away many $285 freebies. After all, they already take a loss on the rotisserie chicken (via Eat This Not That) and food court hot dogs

Last, any legitimate offer will be able to be verified by the store itself. Whenever there is a doubt, check with the listed organization before providing personal details and never pay with cash.