Amazon sells several hundred billion dollars — yes, that’s a real number — of goods to consumers every year. There’s a good chance that at least a few of those dollars will come out of your pocket.
Unfortunately, popular retail marketplaces like Amazon and eBay also attract scammers who want to take advantage of shoppers by stealing money, personal information, or both.
Fraud that takes advantage of Amazon’s reach is on the rise. Amazon impersonators who have nothing to do with the actual company targeting 96,000 people from July 2020 to June 2021, successfully defrauding 6,000 of them out of over $27 million. Older adults are disproportionately affected, with a median reported loss of $1,500.
And that’s just one type of Amazon-related scam. Criminals have found many creative ways to steal from Amazon consumers.
Here are some of the red flags to watch out for when shopping on Amazon, or when being contacted by someone pretending to represent Amazon.
What are the Most Common Amazon Scams?
One of the most common scams you may encounter is Amazon impersonator. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in three people The target of corporate impersonators reports that the fraudster claimed to be from Amazon.
This arrangement may involve an “Amazon representative” offering to refund you for a purchase, then claiming that they transferred more money to your bank account than you owed and requesting that you refund the “overpaid” amount. .
In another situation, the scammer will claim that you need to protect your Amazon account from hackers by buying gift cards and providing the card numbers. In either case, you’re just paying scammers who are not affiliated with Amazon with your own money.
The FTC has also warned Amazon customers about: fake call scam, in which the caller leaves a recorded message stating that there is a problem with your Amazon account. To resolve the issue, you will be prompted to press a button to connect to customer service, or given a number to call back.
In either case, the scammers try to get you to share your Amazon password or your payment details. These fraudsters are often able to fake the caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from Amazon customer service.
A similar type of Amazon scam is a email scam† You will receive an official sounding email from “Amazon” claiming there is a problem with your account and asking you to update your payment information. Or the email appears to be a shipping confirmation for an order you didn’t place. Or you will be asked to verify your account.
Again, the scammers want you to click on the link or call the number provided and reveal sensitive information that would give them access to your account or credit card.
Amazon gift card scams also go far beyond impersonating business identities. Amazon has a full list of connected scamswhere you all have to pay fees or make purchases by handing over Amazon gift card numbers:
- Social security scams. Scammers claim that you should resolve a social security number issue by using an Amazon gift card.
- Job offer scam. Cold callers offer you an Amazon job to work from home and then claim that you have to pay a start-up fee through a gift card.
- Fake online listings. Sellers on every website ask you to pay for goods with an Amazon gift card.
- Boss scams. Scammers impersonate your boss and ask you via text or email to purchase Amazon gift cards as employee rewards or as gifts for customers.
- Unpaid debts or tax fraud. Much like Social Security scams, you will be asked to clear false debts or reimbursements using an Amazon gift card.
Of course, Amazon customers are not immune to third-party scammers on Amazon itself, who abuse Amazon Marketplace listings to steal from buyers. Scammers have been known to encourage buyers to make wire transfers or other payments outside of Amazon, leaving you with no protection whatsoever.
Likewise, Amazon Marketplace sellers may offer counterfeit items at prices that are too good to be true; send the wrong product to you or send your package to the wrong name; or just never send your purchase. All of these are not much different from the eBay scams that customers should be aware of.
Avoiding Amazon Scams – 5 Things to Watch Out for
Many Amazon scams come in the form of phishing, where criminals try to trick you into providing personal or payment information that they can use to steal your money or identity. The other major type involves retail scams on the platform’s Marketplace.
Here are 5 things to watch out for to avoid getting scammed.
- Do not pay for purchases, fees or refunds with a gift card. Legitimate transactions take place on legit platforms. According to the FTC, if someone asks for the number on the back of a gift card, they are cheating you.
- Do not do business with anyone who wants to contact you or transact outside of Amazon’s website.
- Do not call phone numbers or click on links in emails related to your account – especially if the caller or email makes it seem urgent. To reach Amazon, look up the appropriate customer service number on the company’s website or use their online chat. Amazon also has specific directions for verifying legitimacy of emails, texts and phone calls.
- Don’t click on links in text messages without looking closely at the sender. Amazon sends gift cards by text message, but from only one number: 455-72. If it’s from another number, it’s a scam.
- Be careful when buying from third-party Amazon sellers. Linda Sherry, Director of National Priorities at consumer actionadvises buyers to do their due diligence before simply looking for a great deal.
“I’d say don’t buy from sellers who don’t have a lot of good reviews from ‘verified buyers’ as shown on the site,” Sherry says. “Read descriptions and reviews and train your ‘Spidey sense’ to read between the lines about the value of a product if necessary.”
Legitimate sellers will be candid about their products, the flaws of their products and their prices, she adds.
Bottom line: Shopping online comes with risks, and scammers know that the sheer number of Amazon customers offers plenty of opportunities. Use common sense and skepticism to avoid falling into the trap.