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Amazon Scams: What They Are and How to Avoid Them
Amazon is a household name worldwide, with 2.2 billion website visitors yearly and over 150 million subscribers to its Prime service level. It ships 1.6 million packages daily, and 200 million more people use Amazon’s streaming service for entertainment and news. The company’s profit is around $513 billion a year, with a market cap of $1.7 trillion, making it bigger than the economies of several countries, including Spain, Mexico, Australia, and the Netherlands.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid using Amazon when you’re pressed for time or can’t find an item in stores nearby. Convenient and quick, your credit or debit card stays on your Amazon account to make future purchases easy.
With this convenience and universality comes a high potential for fraud. The Federal Trade Commission reports that nearly one in three people reporting fraud say scammers used Amazon’s name in the attempt. So if you’re wondering, “Can you get scammed on Amazon?” The answer is that the scams use Amazon’s name, not the website itself.
How Amazon Scams Work
Most scams rely on scare tactics, or social engineering, to work: you receive an alert by text or email that is somewhat alarming. You respond without thinking because it calls for immediate action.
Amazon email scams also rely on a sense of authority: they appear to be from a trusted source or institution, like Amazon, the company you use frequently.
If Amazon is a company you often do business with, it seems reasonable to be contacted about a package delivery or a refund. Therefore, victims are less likely to be skeptical about a text or phone call from customer service. But these are Amazon fake emails.
When you let your guard down and stop viewing messages from this source as potentially wrong or fraudulent, you are likely to be a victim.
Most Common Amazon Scams to Watch Out For
There is a wide array of common scams, the perpetrators just change the name of the company they’re pretending to represent. Sometimes they say they’re from a bank; other times, it’s the Social Security Administration or Amazon. Here are some of their techniques:
● Phishing or smishing are techniques commonly used in Amazon scams. These messages tell you to click on a link provided to confirm the location for package delivery or for an update. The link in these scam messages takes you to a fake Amazon site where you are prompted to enter your email and password. When you log in, your information is stolen, allowing the scammers to use the credit card linked to your account.
● “There’s something wrong with your account” is a common Amazon order scam. This message may be a phone call or a text message. The best response is not responding directly. Block the phone number. If you’re concerned about your account, log on independently – not by using any links provided in texts or phone calls. Or, contact Amazon customer service directly by visiting the genuine Amazon website.
● Does Amazon call about suspicious activity on your account? Fake order confirmation emails or phone scam messages that your credit card was used to place an order are ways to get you to click on a link in the message or return a call. If you are alarmed by messages like these, try at all costs to avoid clicking on the link provided. Instead, log onto your account (or your credit card account) to verify the information before contacting Amazon customer service yourself. Don’t fall for an Amazon phone scam.
● Another scam tactic is getting remote access to your computer to fix an issue. If you receive a text or email saying there’s a problem with your Amazon account, and you should use a provided link to contact customer service, it’s a scam. Unless the person requesting access is associated with a technical repair service you contacted, do not allow them to take control of your computer. Taking control of your computer may enable them to introduce malware that will send passwords and PINs back to them.
● Tricking you into providing a credit card number is their ultimate goal. People posing as customer service agents looking into imaginary problems with one of your orders may ask for the credit card number you used. Never provide this information, or your password or PIN, to someone over the phone or by text message.
● Gift cards are used in some Amazon refund scams. Victims are instructed to load money onto gift cards (including Amazon cards), then send a photo of the identifying numbers or read the numbers back to the fake customer service rep on the telephone. They may tell you they’re refunding purchases onto the Amazon card or using the number on the card to track down scammers.
● Amazon Prime scams may look like a notification that Prime members are eligible for a special sweepstakes or that there’s a problem with their Prime account. Similar to the Amazon email scams above, these messages should be ignored.
Warning Signs of Amazon Scams
If you’ve received a message from Amazon about a problem with your account, an order you placed, or the delivery of a package, it’s likely a scam. If you get an email from someone saying they are Amazon customer service and need you to verify account information, it’s likely a scam.
Fraudulent use of Amazon’s name is so widespread that any contact about your account or an order is much more likely to be a scam than a legitimate issue.
In particular, watch for these signs:
● Errors in the URL are a giveaway – Amazon always ends in “.com” never “.biz” or “.co.” Also, make sure that you’re seeing correct spelling and not “Annazon” (which can look similar) or “Amaz0n.” An email lookup tool may help determine if a message is authentic.
● Urgency in a message about a package delivery or account issue is a red flag. If they pressure you to contact customer service immediately using a link provided, be skeptical. Avoid using the link and log on as you usually do.
● Genuine customer service employees do not ask for additional personal information like your birthdate or credit card PIN.
How to Avoid Amazon Scams
It takes some effort to avoid scams that are so widespread. The key is to be skeptical of outreach from customer service representatives of any business or organization. Scammers are always looking for new ways to trap people and steal information. They may already have some of your information, such as an email password or birthdate, stolen from another source and illegally sold online.
You may use a reverse phone number lookup tool to verify that a call is actually from Amazon.
Avoid Amazon scams by screening your calls. Let messages from unknown callers or text messages sit before responding to them. Look over web addresses and emails carefully to weed out those that are misspelled or contain poor grammar. If a message is from Amazon, they will have your name and other details; they don’t need to confirm your account information.
Any time you get a message that requires immediate attention, stop and think. Consider the likelihood that it’s a scam, and avoid reacting in haste.