It’s a Prime time for scams.
If you’re an Amazon
shopper, then you’re a target for scammers, unfortunately —especially as we head into Black Friday and the busy holiday shopping season. And the retail giant has been warning customers to be wary of bad actors trying to hack into their Amazon accounts through scam emails, calls and texts.
“With peak shopping seasons … there’s an increased risk consumers may be impacted by fraud,” an Amazon spokesperson told MarketWatch.
Specifically, the rep said to be on the lookout for two types of scams, both of which are far more prevalent in the second half of the year as we get into the November and December holidays.
“The Federal Trade Commission has said that Amazon is a “runaway favorite for scammers,” noting that “about one in three people who reported a business impersonator said the scammer claimed to be Amazon.””
The first involves scammers sending emails posing as Amazon representatives, which include attachments saying the recipient’s account will be suspended or put on hold. These attachments will prompt the recipient to click on a fraudulent link to update their account and provide personal financial or other information, which the scammer can then exploit.
The other situation involves the Amazon Prime program, which has more than 200 million members globally. Scammers often call, text or email to ask the recipient to resolve a payment issue in order to reinstate their Prime membership — and in the process, they gain the customer’s personal information. The Amazon spokesperson told MarketWatch that the company has seen a fourfold increase in customers reporting this type of scam during the July-December period.
Such scams wind up costing Amazon customers in a big way. The Federal Trade Commission has said that Amazon is a “runaway favorite for scammers,” noting that “about one in three people who reported a business impersonator said the scammer claimed to be Amazon.”
In a 12-month period that ended June 2021, the FTC said 96,000 Amazon customers reported being targeted by scammers, with 6,000 of those people saying they lost money as a result. And the sum for the scam-related damage to customers during that period? More than $27 million, according to the FTC, with the median loss being $1,000.
Not that Amazon shoppers can’t protect themselves against bad actors. So what can you do?
First and foremost, the company and other security experts remind you to remember that scammers are masters of impersonation, and will lure you by using logos, website addresses and other details that suggest they are the real deal.
So if you find yourself tempted to respond directly to a message about an Amazon purchase, simply avoid doing so. Instead, go straight to Amazon’s website and verify that “it is really in your purchase history before taking any action,” a company spokesperson said.
And know that Amazon “will never ask for payment over the phone or email — only in our mobile app, on our website, or in one of our physical stores. We will never call and ask you to make a payment or bank transfer on another website,” the spokesperson added.
Similarly, Amazon will never ask its customers to download or install any software to connect with customer service, according to the spokesperson. So anyone directing you to do so is likely a scammer.
The FTC also encourages those who are getting contacted by scammers to report the issue at ReportFraud.FTC.gov, and put family and friends on alert. “If you’re getting these messages, so are people you know. Help them avoid the scam by sharing what you know,” the FTC said.
But there’s more that could be done. Stephen M. Kohn, an attorney and consumer-fraud expert based in Washington, D.C., said the ultimate solution to stopping scammers that target Amazon shoppers and other consumers is through legislative channels. He’s calling on Congress to pass a law that will make it easier for whistleblowers to come forward and contact authorities about companies that engage in scamming operations.
“The growth in this type of consumer fraud will not stop until effective enforcement procedures are put in place,” Kohn told MarketWatch.