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Amazon and FBI impersonation scams move to the front burner

Expert tips on how to keep your personal data and money from winding up in the wrong hands

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Photo (c) Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that impersonation scams are the number one consumer complaint with close to 300,000 in the last year. And who better for a scammer to try and undermine but the kajillions of shoppers Amazon has?

So far this year, Amazon scam analysts found that fake order confirmations accounted for more than 50% of all Amazon impersonation scams reported by its customers. Most of the time, the ruse was to try and trick a customer into confirming a supposed purchase – and do it ASAP!

But when the target realizes that they didn’t make that purchase and tries to cancel the fake order by clicking a link or calling the supposed “customer service” number, the scammers are ready and waiting to steal their personal or financial information. 

The FBI is getting hit with a slew of new impersonation scams, too, with fakers calling consumers claiming they’re an FBI agent collecting on a legal judgment entered against the person. That’s probably even more menacing than your typical impersonation scam because the threat of being arrested or being on the wrong end of the law is the last thing anyone wants to hear.

Bone up on your Amazon impersonation know-how

The third and fourth quarters of every year are the high season for scammers and with online shopping starting to peak, being vigilant is a must. To help readers, Amazon shared a slate of shopping tips so everyone can get in on the action of taking down scammers.

Verify purchases on Amazon. If you receive a message about the purchase of a product or service, do not respond to the message or click on any link in the message. Instead, log into your Amazon account or use the Amazon mobile app and confirm that it is really in your purchase history before taking any action.

Trust Amazon’s App & Website. “Amazon will not ask for payment over the phone or email, only in the Amazon mobile app, on Amazon.com, or in one of Amazon’s physical stores,” an Amazon spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs. “Amazon will not call and ask you to make a payment or bank transfer on some other website.”

Be wary of false urgency. Getting a target all worked up is a scammer’s passion. They often try to create a sense of urgency to persuade you to do what they’re asking, but if someone calls and tries to move you into “now” mode, be careful – even if they say they’re your grandson and they’re in jail.

Don’t be pressured into buying a gift card. Gift cards are another fave of scammers, but Amazon said that it will never ask anyone, anywhere, anytime to purchase a gift card – and no legitimate sale or transaction will require you to pay with gift cards, either. Amazon shoppers can learn more about common gift card scams on Amazon’s help pages.

Contact Amazon. “If you’re ever unsure, it’s safest to stop engaging with the potential scammer and Contact Amazon directly through the Amazon app or website. Do not call numbers sent over text or email, or found in online search results,” the company spokesperson said. 

“Remember Amazon will not ask you to download or install any software to connect with customer service nor will we request payment for any customer service support.”

If you smell something fishy, report it. If you think something is a little weird – like an email from Amazon – the company would like you to do it a favor and report it immediately. You can either report a suspicious message to the company at stop-spoofing@amazon.com or you can use its self-reporting tool. Either way, you’ll be helping out all your fellow Amazon shoppers. 

FBI scam warning advice

The tips the FBI shared that people can use to spot and stop an impersonation scammer go like this: 

Know that government agencies don’t call and demand money or personal information. It doesn’t matter if you owe money, no honest-to-goodness government representative will ever call anyone to threaten to arrest them, freeze their accounts, or take their property.

Never pay anyone who tells you to pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers. Again, no government agency, including the FBI, demands payment by any of those means. Anyone who does is a scammer. Always.

Don’t trust caller ID. Sorry to have to break the news to you, but scammers are getting smarter. Nowadays, they use technology to fake the number they call from. “Never call back phone numbers from your caller ID or voicemails,”  the agency warns.

Check with the FBI if you think the call or email is real. If you’re worried about an email you get – one that claims it’s from the FBI – contact one of its field offices to check out the call before you act.

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