Common Amazon Scams and How to Protect Yourself
Scammers love to target anywhere money is involved. And as one of the biggest online retailers in the world, people spend a lot of money with Amazon. Using Amazon for scams can be extremely lucrative for scammers – and they don’t even have to be on Amazon to do it. By looking at how the most common Amazon scams happen, we can create awareness and prevent loss.
See Top 10 Amazon Scams with Abigail Bishop for a complete transcript of the Easy Prey podcast episode.
Abigail Bishop is the global Head of External Relations for Scam Prevention at Amazon. She works closely with external organizations and individuals committing to preventing scams, as well as twelve thousand Amazon employees who are working on scam prevention within Amazon itself. Like many people, Abigail started working in scam prevention with many personal anecdotes of being contacted by scammers. But whether you’ve been a victim or just deleted the attempts, it doesn’t take much to feel passionate about this kind of work. Preventing scams is a tangible benefit for people of all ages across the world.
The Two Most Common Amazon Scams
There are a wide variety of Amazon scams, from fake reviews to fake products to unauthorized reselling. But the scams Abigail wants to warn people about don’t even happen on Amazon itself.
Order Confirmation Amazon Scams
Over half of the scams reported to Amazon are order confirmation scams. In this scam, the scammer pretends to be Amazon. They contact you in some way, often by email or text but sometimes via phone call as well. They tell you that you made a purchase, usually a large purchase, and want you to confirm it. You haven’t made a purchase, and no one has accessed your account. The “order confirmation” is entirely fake. But you will be asked to send information via email or call a customer service number to verify or cancel. When you do, the scammer will steal your information and use or sell it.
Gift Card Amazon Scams
Requiring you to pay for something with gift cards is a common scammer technique. Many of us have seen warnings that the IRS will never require payment in gift cards. Scammers request gift cards because it’s hard to trace. In Amazon scams, they try to convince people that the only way to pay is with gift cards or that they are required to purchase a gift card.
One of the things we want consumers to know is that we will never ask you to pay with a gift card or to purchase a gift card.Abigail Bishop
Amazon will never require you to pay with a gift card or to make a gift card purchase. If you receive a communication of any kind telling you to do either, it’s probably not from Amazon.
Other Amazon Scams
There are other types of Amazon scams. Some scammers, for example, will say that you have a refund available and they need access to your computer to issue that refund. Amazon never needs to do that. A legitimate Amazon customer service representative will never ask to access your computer. They will also never ask you to download anything in order to speak to customer service.
Identify and Avoid Amazon Scams
We’re all susceptible to scams to some extent. Being aware of how they work is a big step towards helping you spot them. But once you’re suspicious, what should you do? You can avoid Amazon scams by using these tools and tips. Abigail especially recommends that everyone verify everything with their Amazon account. No matter who you’re talking to or how they reached out, using Amazon’s verification options can help protect you from Amazon scams.
Verify With Your Amazon Account
Many of these Amazon scams actually happen off Amazon. But you can still verify if a communication is legitimate. If you get an order confirmation, you can log into your account and check your order history. If the order isn’t there, the order confirmation is fake. Amazon also has a message center where you can see a list of all legitimate communications. If it’s not on the list, it’s probably a fake.
The best thing that consumers can do is to first validate the transaction or communication on their Amazon account.Abigail Bishop
If you’re still concerned about a potentially malicious message, you can report it! Amazon has a new reporting tool at amazon.com/reportascam where you can tell them about the communication you received. They will read your report and get back to you to tell you if it was real or fake.
Use Tried-and-True Practices
It’s important to take steps to protect yourself. Tried-and-true techniques to protect you against any scams can also protect you against Amazon scams. Never click on a link in an email that you think might not be from Amazon. If you are in any doubt, go directly to amazon.com. Also beware of false urgency. Anything that wants you to act now so you don’t miss out or act now so you won’t be charged a lot of money is suspicious. You can always cross-reference with your Amazon account and the Amazon message center.
We’ve all gotten an email or text and felt our stomachs drop. Scammers are great at making their emails, text messages, and phone calls sound urgent and fraught with horrible consequences. Our lives are moving quickly and we live in a fast-paced world. It’s easy to get something like that and be driven to deal with it immediately. But taking a minute or two to think and verify is worth the time.
It’s okay to slow down and just take a second before you take action.Abigail Bishop
Be Wary of Phone Calls from Amazon
There are very few instances were Amazon customer service will call you. However, it does sometimes happen. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Amazon, chances are good that it’s an Amazon scam. But it’s important to verify.
Chances are if you’re receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be from Amazon, they’re not.Abigail Bishop
A legitimate Amazon customer service person can confirm things like an order ID. And unlike Amazon scams, Amazon customer service will never ask you to verify private information like your social security number or your mother’s maiden name. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from Amazon, go back to your account. You can use the app or the website to verify the information.
Scam Prevention Behind the Scenes
There are over twelve thousand people at Amazon who work on scam prevention in some way. And these people are from a variety of disciplines. They include machine learning scientists, software engineers, expert investigators, and more. This large, multi-disciplinary team is working on various aspects of scam prevention.
Why Preventing Amazon Scams Matters
Amazon strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. Everything they do to prevent scams is fueled by that. They consider how customers need to be protected, how Amazon can support them, and how they can do right by them if they do become a victim of an Amazon scam.
Amazon also feels a sense of responsibility to protect all consumers. As much as they are committed to their own customers, issues like scam prevention extends to consumers more broadly. Where they have the opportunity to learn from and share with other organizations, they want to be able to do that.
Amazon’s Scam Prevention Work
Amazon’s scam prevention efforts falls into three general categories. The first is consumer education and partnerships. They try to educate consumers as part of the customer journey. For example, they send regular emails to remind customers about best practices. They also partner with other organizations to aid in this goal. For general consumer education, they have partnered with the Better Business Bureau. In addition, they have partnered with the National Cybersecurity Alliance to amplify best practices like two-factor authentication and password protection and to learn from scam prevention experts.
The second effort they make is ensuring customers know it’s really them. When you’re getting a communication from Amazon, how can you know it’s really Amazon and not an Amazon scam? They strive to answer that question. One example is an email authentication tool they recently implemented. A real email from Amazon will now have the smile logo as the sender’s picture and will be from an @amazon.com email address. They are continuing to look for ways to validate to customers that it’s really Amazon reaching out to them.
The third effort is accountability and enforcement work. Amazon is investing a lot of energy into holding bad actors accountable. In 2022, they made over a hundred referrals to law enforcement across the globe. They also shut down 20,000 fake websites and 10,000 scam phone numbers.
An Ongoing Struggle
Between their three efforts, Amazon is spending a lot of time and energy to prevent Amazon scams and protect consumers from scams in general. But there’s a long way to go. Scam prevention is a challenge that is constantly evolving. With every advancement in technology, there’s a new challenge.
As we get more creative in the way that consumers are paying for things and communicating with companies … there’s just increasing vulnerability, susceptibility, and risk of those things being exploited.Abigail Bishop
Scammers are inventive, creative, and well-resourced. They are often part of massive organized criminal enterprises. They are great at finding out where consumers are vulnerable and where they can exploit that.
The good news is that organizations like Amazon are putting resources and energy into this problem. They are working towards preventing scams, making it harder to run a scam, educating consumers, and working with law enforcement to hold scammers accountable. Amazon especially is keen to work with telecommunications companies, email providers, financial institutions, payment apps, and others to become part of a network to find bad actors and protect consumers.
The Bottom Line: Validate Communication and Report Scams
If you receive a suspicious communication, Abigail encourages everyone to report it. Whether or not you lost anything in the scam, reporting it helps with tracking and monitoring the scammers’ methods. You can report any suspected scam to the Better Business Bureau using the BBB Scam Tracker tool. For Amazon scams in particular, whether it involves Amazon gift cards, an order confirmation for a purchase you didn’t make, or anything else, you can report it at amazon.com/reportascam.
Abigail wants to destigmatize not knowing if something is a scam. Not knowing something is completely human, especially if you’ve received a weird message. Never be afraid to verify. If you’re encountering Amazon scams, always check your Amazon account. Look at your orders and at the message center to verify. And if you’re still not sure, you can always ask for confirmation at amazon.com/reportascam.
Abigail Bishop encourages you to report any scams you encounter, whether or not you lost anything. You can report scams in general with the BBB Scam Tracker tool at bbb.org/scamtracker, and you can report Amazon scams at amazon.com/reportascam. And if in doubt, check your Amazon account!
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