The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers ahead of the holiday buying season that a rash of Amazon fakers are out in full force. According to the FTC’s new Data Spotlight, about 30% of consumers who have reported a business impersonator scam say the scammer pretended to be Amazon.
The FTC says the typical ruse uses one of two approaches. In one version, an Amazon imposter offers to “refund” you for an unauthorized purchase but “accidentally” transfers more than promised. They then ask the consumer to send back the difference, but it’s all a farce.
“The scammer moves your own money from one of your bank accounts to the other (like your Savings to Checkings, or vice versa) to make it look like you were refunded,” explains Maria Mayo, an FTC Acting Associate Director in the Division of Consumer Response and Operations. “Any money you send back to ‘Amazon’ is your money (not an overpayment) — and as soon as you send it out of your account, it becomes theirs.”
In another version, the scammer calls a consumer and tells them that hackers have gained access to their account. And, of course, the only way to supposedly protect the account is to buy gift cards and share the gift card number and PIN on the back. Once the consumer shares that information, they can kiss the money it cost to buy those gift cards goodbye.
How to avoid an Amazon impersonator scam
Mayo offers three valuable tips that could come in handy if a consumer feels like they’re being pulled into something like the Amazon scam:
Never call back an unknown number. Use the information on Amazon’s website and not a number listed in an unexpected email or text.
Don’t pay for anything with a gift card. Gift cards are for gifts. If anyone asks you to pay with a gift card -- or buy gift cards for anything other than a gift -- it’s a scam.
Don’t give remote access to someone who contacts you unexpectedly. “This gives scammers easy access to your personal and financial information—like access to your bank accounts,” Mayo said.
Reporting Amazon scams
Amazon says it takes fraud, scamming, phishing, and spoofing attempts seriously. The company asks all consumers who receive any sort of communication that they think may not actually be from Amazon to report it immediately.
To report a phishing attempt or spoofed email or webpage, Amazon asks consumers to take these steps:
Open a new email and attach the email you suspect is fake.
For suspicious web pages, copy and paste the link into the email body.
If you can't send the email as an attachment, forward it.
Send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Amazon says sending the suspicious email as an attachment is the best way for the company to track it.
For any suspicious phone calls or text messages, Amazon suggests that consumers contact the FTC.