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How to avoid Amazon scams — 5 tips you need to know

Amazon sells goods to consumers for several hundred billion dollars each year – yes, that’s a real number. There’s a good chance that at least some of that dollar came out of your pocket.

Unfortunately, popular retail marketplaces like Amazon and eBay also attract scammers who want to take advantage of shoppers by deceiving them with money, personal information, or both.

Fraud leveraging Amazon’s reach is on the rise. Amazon copycats, who have nothing to do with the real company, targeted 96,000 people from July 2020 to June 2021 and successfully defrauded 6,000 of more than $27 million. Older adults are disproportionately victimized, with an average loss of $1,500 reported.

And that’s just one type of Amazon-related scam. Criminals have found many creative ways to steal from Amazon consumers.

Here are some of the red flags to watch out for when shopping on Amazon or when someone posing as Amazon contacts you.

What are the most common Amazon scams?

One of the most common scams you can come across is an Amazon copycat scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in three people targeted by business impersonators report that the scammer claims to be from Amazon.

This scheme may prompt an “Amazon representative” offer to refund a purchase, claiming they’ve transferred more money to your bank account than you should, and asking you to return the “overpayment”.

In another case, the scammer will claim that you need to protect your Amazon account from hackers by purchasing gift cards and providing card numbers. In both cases, you are paying scammers who are not affiliated with Amazon with your own money.

The FTC also warned Amazon customers of fake call scams, where the caller left a recorded message that there was a problem with their Amazon account. You will be asked to press a button to connect to customer service to fix the problem or you will be given a number to call back.

Either way, scammers are trying to get you to share your Amazon password or payment information. These scammers often impersonate the caller ID, suggesting that the call came from Amazon’s customer service team.

A similar type of Amazon scam is an email scam. You will receive an official email from “Amazon” claiming there is a problem with your account and asking you to update your payment information. Or the email will appear as a shipping confirmation for an order you didn’t place. Or you will be asked to verify your account.

Again, scammers ask you to click on the link or call the given number and reveal confidential information that will allow them to access your account or credit card.

Amazon gift card scams also go far beyond basic business impersonation. Amazon has compiled a complete list of linked scams, all of which involve you paying fees or making purchases by providing Amazon gift card numbers:

  • Social Security scam. Scammers claim that you should fix a problem with your social security number by using an Amazon gift card.
  • Job offer scam. Unwanted callers offer you to work from home on Amazon and then claim you have to pay an upfront fee via a gift card.
  • Fake online ads. Sellers on any website ask you to pay for goods using an Amazon gift card.
  • Boss blows. Scammers impersonate your boss and ask you, via text message or email, to purchase Amazon gift cards as employee incentives or gifts for customers.
  • Unpaid debts or tax fraud. Like Social Security scams, you’re asked to pay fake debt or fees using an Amazon gift card.

Of course, Amazon customers are not immune to fraudulent third-party sellers on Amazon who take advantage of Amazon Marketplace listings to steal from shoppers. Scammers have been known to lure shoppers into making wire transfers or other payments outside of Amazon, stripping away any protection you have.

Similarly, Amazon Marketplace sellers may list fakes at prices that are too good to be true; send the wrong item or send your package to the wrong name; or never send your purchased product. All of this is no different from eBay scams that shoppers need to watch out for.

How to Avoid Amazon Scams – 5 Things to Consider

Many Amazon scams come in the form of phishing, where criminals aim to trick you into providing personal or payment information that they can use to steal your money or identity. The other main type includes retail scams on the platform’s Marketplace.

Here are 5 things to watch out for to avoid getting scammed.

  1. Do not pay for purchases, fees or refunds with a gift card. Legitimate transactions take place on legitimate platforms. According to the FTC, if someone asks for the number on the back of their gift card, they are cheating on you.
  2. Do not do business with people who want to contact you or who want to transact outside of the Amazon website.
  3. Do not call phone numbers associated with your account or click links in emails. — especially if the caller or email message seems urgent. If you need to contact Amazon, call the appropriate customer service number on the company’s website or use the online chat. Amazon also has specific instructions for verifying the legitimacy of emails, text messages, and phone calls.
  4. Don’t click on links in text messages without looking closely at the sender. Amazon sends gift cards by text, but only with a number: 455-72. If it’s a different number, it’s fake.
  5. Be careful when buying from third-party Amazon sellers. Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action, advises shoppers to do their due diligence before going after a good deal.

“I say don’t buy from ‘verified buyers’ sellers who don’t get as good reviews as their website shows,” Sherry says. “Read descriptions and reviews, and train your ‘spider sense’ to read between the lines if needed about the value of a product.”

He adds that legitimate sellers will be honest about their products, flaws and prices.

Bottom line: Online shopping is risky, and scammers know that Amazon’s huge customer base offers ample deals. Use your common sense and skepticism to avoid falling into the trap.


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How to avoid Amazon scams — 5 tips you need to know

Amazon sells several hundred billion dollars — yes, that’s a real number — of goods to consumers every year.  There’s a decent chance at least a few of those dollars came from your pocket.  
Unfortunately, popular retail marketplaces like Amazon and eBay also attract scammers who are looking to take advantage of shoppers by cheating them out of money, personal information or both.  
Fraud capitalizing on Amazon’s reach has been on the rise. Amazon impersonators who have nothing to do with the actual company targeted 96,000 people from July 2020 to June 2021, and successfully scammed 6,000 of them out of more than $27 million. Older adults are disproportionately victimized, with a median reported loss of $1,500.  
And that’s just one type of Amazon-related scam. Criminals have found many creative ways to steal from Amazon consumers.  
Here are some of the red flags to watch for when shopping on Amazon, or when contacted by someone pretending to represent Amazon.
What are the most common Amazon scams? 
One of the most common scams you could encounter is an Amazon-impersonator scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in three people targeted by business impersonators reports that the fraudster claimed to be from Amazon.  
This scheme could involve an “Amazon representative” offering to refund you for a purchase, then claiming they transferred more money to your bank account than you were owed and requesting that you return the “overpayment.”  
In another situation, the scammer will claim that you need to protect your Amazon account from hackers by buying gift cards and providing the card numbers. In both cases, you’re simply paying scammers who have no connection to Amazon with your own money.  
The FTC has also warned Amazon customers about fake call scams, in which the caller leaves a recorded message stating that there’s a problem with your Amazon account. To resolve the issue, you’re prompted to press a button to connect to customer service, or you’re given a number to call back.  
In either case, the scammers are trying to get you to share your Amazon password or your payment information. These fraudsters are often able to spoof caller ID so that it looks like the call is coming from Amazon’s customer-service team.  
A similar type of Amazon scam is an email scam. You’ll get an official-sounding email from “Amazon” claiming there’s an issue with your account and prompting you to update your payment information. Or the email will appear to be a shipping confirmation for an order you didn’t place. Or you’ll be asked to verify your account.  
Again, the scammers want you to click the link or call the provided number and disclose sensitive information that would grant them access to your account or credit card.  
Amazon gift-card scams also go well beyond basic business impersonation. Amazon has compiled a whole list of connected scams, all of which involve you paying fees or making purchases by handing over Amazon gift card numbers:  
Social Security scams. Scammers claim you need to resolve an issue with your Social Security number by using an Amazon gift card.  
Job-offer scams. Unsolicited callers offer you a work-from-home Amazon job and then claim you must pay a start-up fee via gift card.  
Fake online listings. Sellers on any website ask you to pay for goods using an Amazon gift card.  
Boss scams. Scammers pose as your boss and ask you, via text or email, to buy Amazon gift cards as employee incentives or client gifts.  
Unpaid debt or tax scams. Like Social Security scams, you’re asked to resolve bogus debts or fees using an Amazon gift card.  
Of course, Amazon customers aren’t immune from scammy third-party sellers on Amazon itself, who take advantage of Amazon Marketplace listings to steal from buyers. Scam artists have been known to direct buyers to make wire transfers or other payments outside of Amazon, eliminating any protection you have.  
Similarly, Amazon Marketplace sellers may list counterfeit items at too-good-to-be-true prices; ship you the wrong product or send your package to the wrong name; or simply never send you your purchase at all. All these are not very different from the eBay scams that customers need to watch out for. 
How to avoid Amazon scams — 5 things to watch for 
Many Amazon scams come in the form of phishing, in which criminals aim to trick you into providing personal or payment information they can use to steal your money or identity. The other major type involves retail scams on the platform’s Marketplace.  
Here are 5 things to watch for to avoid getting scammed.  
Do not pay for purchases, fees or refunds with a gift card. Legitimate transactions take place on legitimate platforms. According to the FTC, if someone requests the number on the back of a gift card, they’re scamming you.  
Do not do any business with anyone who requests to contact you or make a transaction outside Amazon’s website.  
Do not call phone numbers or click links in emails related to your account — especially if the caller or the email message makes it seem urgent. If you need to reach Amazon, look up the appropriate customer service number on the company’s website or use their online chat. Amazon also has specific directions for verifying the legitimacy of emails, texts and phone calls.  
Do not click links in text messages without looking closely at the sender. Amazon does send gift cards by text, but from only one number: 455-72. If it’s from a different number, it’s a scam. 
Do use caution when purchasing from third-party Amazon sellers. Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action, advises shoppers to do their due diligence before simply going after a good deal.  
“I’d say don’t buy from sellers who do not have lots of good reviews from ‘verified buyers’ as shown on the site,” says Sherry. “Read descriptions and reviews and train your ‘Spidey sense’ to read between the lines, if necessary, about the value of a product.”  
Legitimate sellers will be upfront about their products, their products’ flaws and their prices, she adds.  
Bottom line: Online shopping comes with risks, and scammers know that the sheer volume of Amazon customers provides ample opportunity. Use your common sense and skepticism to avoid falling into a trap. 

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