Reghan Winkler: How do you recognize a bogus Amazon call?


By Reghan Winkler - Better Business Bureau



Back in early June of this year there was a surge in “suspicious activity” scams. “Suspicious activity” scams are those that originate with a bogus phone call, email, or text from a retail outlet, in this case Amazon, alerting potential victims that “suspicious activity” has been detected on their account.

With consumers receiving up to 150 million robocalls per month from fraudsters claiming to be with Amazon, it is widely believed the scam’s surge was associated with Amazon’s wildly popular Prime Days, giving scammers cover to impersonate the company. From July 2020 through June 2021, 96,000 people reported being targeted by scammers, with losses topping $1,000 per customer.

With the upcoming holiday season and the specter of serious supply chain delivery problems, we again have seen a large uptick in such calls.

The Amazon scam is a new twist to the common gift card scam, in which fraudsters added the “suspicious activity on your account” claim made famous in the IRS scam that has been around for years. The con artists have also fine-tuned their bogus messages to respond to wary consumers.

In one example of the Amazon scam, a Norfolk, Virginia resident received a call from a number he did not recognize, so he wisely did not answer it. However, scammers know consumers often don’t pick up, so they left an alarming message about an “unusual charge” on his Amazon account for $499.99.

Hearing that, the man made the call back, explaining to the scammer he didn’t have an Amazon account.

Unfazed, the scammer told the victim the charge must’ve been made using the man’s credit card and if he wanted to challenge the purchase, he must fill out a form. The scammer then steered him to a website.

When the man clicked on the form, he unwittingly gave access to his computer. The scammer showed him what appeared to be his bank account information and a $499.99 charge on the statement.

The scammer “attempted” to credit the account, but “made a mistake” and entered $3,499.49 to the man’s account instead. The scammer claimed he could not reverse the transaction, telling the man he instead must go to CVS and buy $3000 worth of gift cards and relay the number on the card to the scammer.

Fortunately, the man realized what was going on and refused to go any further. The scammer then threatened to empty his bank account. Luckily, the man’s banking info wasn’t actually accessible on his computer. The scammer had apparently used a fake bank account screen earlier.

If, like thousands of other victims, the man had purchased gift cards, he would’ve been out at least $3,000.

So how do you recognize a bogus Amazon call?

• First, be wary of any call, email, or text you may receive right now. In this climate you simply can’t trust the calls are actually from Amazon. If you are worried, call Amazon directly.

• Some bogus Amazon messages have “If you did not place this order” verbiage. Amazon never uses this language when sending out shipping notifications.

• Currently Amazon emails do not include the full address in the shipment confirmation email or text, only the city and state.

• While Amazon does make some outbound calls to customers, they will never ask you to disclose or verify sensitive personal information or offer you a refund you do not expect.

An FTC statement summed it up perfectly. “Do not press 1 to speak with customer support. Do not call a phone number they gave you. Do not give out your personal information.”

Be safe this holiday season. Don’t fall victim to Amazon scammer Grinches!

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By Reghan Winkler

Better Business Bureau

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at bbb.org/us/oh/lima.

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at bbb.org/us/oh/lima.

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