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'Free Netflix' coronavirus offer is actually a scam: Don't click on this

Netflix
(Image credit: Shutterstock; Netflix)

No, Netflix isn't joining the ranks of the many streaming sites giving out extended free trials to help folks stuck at home during the COVID-19 quarantine. It could happen — we just saw news of CBS All Access's 1 month trial deal, after all — but this is actually an attack. 

Graham Cluley (an independent security consultant) blogged about the attack over at Bitdefender, but we didn't even need to read his post to learn about this situation. One of our own staff writers was texted by the malicious scammers. 

Distributed by SMS texts and WhatsApp messages, the message suggests Netflix is giving out free access to its Premium tier (which has 4K streaming, and usually costs $15.99 per month). Cluley shared a screenshot that pushes the user to act fast — and not think twice about their own security. The message reads: "Run on the site cause it will end quick!" 

The big red flag? You don't see Netflix.com in the URL in that text. Instead, it features the domain name "netflix-usa[dot]net." The scam text sent to a Tom's Guide staffer uses an even odder domain name, "flix2years33[dot]xyz" — which clearly looks scammy.

netflix scam

(Image credit: Future)

How scammy is it? Well, after you get to the site, it shows you a ticker of how many free accounts are up for available, and then asks you to share the link with 10 of your friends (we don't think that pyramid schemes will ever go out of style). 

As for what happens next, we didn't click through; we don't trust these crooks and their links nearly that much. But we wouldn't be shocked to hear that they ask you to share important personal information, or download an application — likely laced with something nasty — onto your device.

Don't click, report instead

Right now, it's pretty simple to keep these malcontents off your back. Just don't open the URLs in these texts. Netflix does not reach out via text, and nobody who's trying to send you free Netflix deals should be trusted. 

And don't trust texted links, even if the URL doesn't look sketchy at first glance. It's easy to imagine a trickier-looking link that uses a capital i in the place of a lower-case L, to write netfIix.com. Looks close enough, right? Especially to unsuspecting targets.

There are also Spanish-language variants of this scam, that appear to be sent as push notifications.

Next, report the texter to WhatsApp, or block them in your phone. In WhatsApp, on the top of the message screen, tap the scammer's name, scroll down and tap Report Contact. For SMS texts on an iPhone, tap the icon bubble at the top of the screen, tap Info, tap the contact row, scroll down and tap block. On Android, click the three dot button in the top right corner of the message window, select People & Options and tap Block twice.

Actual free streaming services

Trying to find something to watch, without paying? Check out PlutoTV, a fine free streaming service that has tons of content (with ads), including major films and current TV shows (it even had the Star Trek: Picard premiere!).