Amazon Impersonators Target Consumers, Take Advantage Of Amazon’s Name – Thousands Have Been Targeted In A “Runaway Favorite For Scammers”
The FTC recently reported that “Amazon tops [the] list of impersonated businesses.” According to the FTC, reports to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel point to Amazon as a runaway favorite for scammers. From July 2020 through June 2021, about one in three people who reported a business impersonator said the scammer claimed to be Amazon. About 96,000 people reported being targeted, and nearly 6,000 said they lost money. Reported losses totaled more than $27 million, and the reported median individual loss was $1,000.
These impersonators, according to the FTC, get your attention with messages to call about suspicious activity or unauthorized purchases on your Amazon account. When you call the number, a phony Amazon representative tricks you into giving them remote access to your computer or phone to supposedly fix the problem and give you a refund. But then—whoops—a couple of extra zeros are keyed in and too much money is (supposedly) refunded. They tell you to return the difference. In fact, some people have reported that the “representative” even begged for help, saying Amazon would fire them if the money wasn’t returned.
To make their lies about refunding that so-called overpayment more believable, scammers, reportedly, have accessed people’s online banking. Scammers, according to the FTC, move money from one account to another—say, from savings to checking. Then, when people see a large deposit in their checking account, they think it’s the refund, but it’s all fake. If they send money, as requested, they end up sending their own (very real) money.
Scammers also tell people to buy gift cards and send pictures of the numbers on the back. The scammers may call these numbers “blocking codes” or “security codes,” and explain that sharing them can block the hackers who, supposedly, took over the Amazon account in question. But the only thing those numbers are good for is getting (or stealing) the money on the card. After people send pictures of the gift cards, they often report getting texts confirming a supposed account credit in the amount of each gift card purchase. That’s just another trick scammers use to get their targets to buy more cards.
Another scam involves text messages saying you won a raffle for a free product from Amazon. Consumers who click the link to claim their free prize then have to enter credit card information to pay for “shipping.” Before long, they see charges to which they never agreed.
The FTC reports that the data suggests that Amazon impersonation scams may be disproportionately harming older adults. Over the past year, people ages 60 and older were over four times more likely than younger people to report losing money to an Amazon impersonator. Older adults also reported losing more money—their median reported loss was $1,500, compared to $814 for people under age 60.
The FTC has provided the following guidance to avoid some common tricks business impersonators use:
- Never call phone numbers given in unexpected calls, texts, emails, or messages on social media. And don’t click any links. Those are scams.
- If you’re worried, check it out. Go directly to the company’s website to find out how to reach them. Don’t trust the phone numbers or links that come up in search results.
- Never give anyone remote access to your devices unless you contacted the company first (using its real number). If someone tells you to give remote access to get a refund, it’s a scam.
- Never pay by gift card. Nobody legit will ever require you to. And never send pictures of gift cards. If someone tells you they need the numbers on the back of a gift card, it’s a scam.
- Talk about it. If you’re getting these messages, so are people you know. Help them avoid the scam by sharing what you know.