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The worst Amazon scams and how to avoid them

You've just seen that new blender you need so badly for a great price on Amazon. However, the seller asks you to make your payment through Western Union to avoid Amazon service costs. What would you do? Is it a genuine offer or one of the infamous Amazon scams that have plagued consumers this year?

Paulius Ilevičius

Paulius Ilevičius

Dec 17, 2021 · 5 min read

The worst Amazon scams and how to avoid them

How do Amazon scams work?

Amazon threats are growing; new scams are discovered on a regular basis. Amazon scammers usually employ social engineering techniques to trick users into falling for their schemes.

They either try to impersonate legitimate Amazon representatives or target you with offers so good that you can't resist. In the end, they need you to either give up your credit card data or money, or in some cases carry out a purchase.

The most frequent Amazon scams

Below we've listed some of the most frequent Amazon scams.

Unauthorized purchase scam

In this case, a user will receive a phishing email or a phone call about an expensive purchase made from their account without their knowledge. The email usually contains a fake link to Amazon's website or a phone number to call regarding the purchase. When users click on a link or call a number, cybercriminals disguised as Amazon representatives will claim that they need their credit card details to stop the transaction and cancel the purchase. If you give up your information, of course, they will then immediately drain your bank account.

Fake tech-support

Such tech-support impostors can call users themselves or ask customers to contact them via a fraudulent email stating that there is a problem with their account. Then they can convince users to install malicious apps or software to fix the issue.

Malicious links

Again, this one usually comes in the form of an email or an SMS message. It can look like a completely genuine message from Amazon, and will prompt you to click on a link and log in to your account to solve an issue. However, the website your logging into is operated by hackers — you've just exposed your Amazon credentials.

Gift card scam

A gift card scam occurs when scammers trick users into buying Amazon gift cards and exposing their card numbers. Fraudsters can then instantly redeem the gift coupons. The numbers are unique, so the buyer can no longer use them.

They can think of various scenarios to convince you to buy the cards. Scammers can impersonate your colleagues or family members and state that they forgot their wallets and need to make an immediate Amazon purchase. They could also state that you or someone in your family is in trouble and needs financial coverage in the form of gift cards. In other cases, cybercriminals can come up with fake charity campaigns in which gift cards serve as donations.

These are just a few possible scenarios. In these cases, scammers usually press users to react quickly. Usually, there is a sense of urgency in messages. But always remember one thing — Amazon gift cards don't function as currency, and legitimate sellers almost never use them as a form of payment.

Payment scams

Payment scams are usually quite straightforward — scammers try to convince you to pay for your goods outside Amazon's secure platform. They offer various discounts or extra stuff if you pay them via Western Union, Money Gram, PayPal, or wire transfer. But if you fall for their promises, you will see neither your money nor the products you ordered. Such sellers will most likely erase their accounts soon afterwards. And Amazon also won't help you much because the payment took place outside its platform.

Failed delivery scam

This one targets legitimate sellers and is quite an old online scam. It's pretty simple — a buyer claims that they didn't receive an order and requires a refund, while in reality, they got it. This issue is quite easily resolved by using track-and-trace postage. It means that no item can be delivered without the recipient's signature.

Prize scam

This one comes as a message informing users that they've won a prize but must click on some malicious link to get it delivered. The link, of course, is operated by criminals and will either inject you with malware or steal your credentials.

How to identify an Amazon scam

Here are a few tips on how to tell if it's a scam:

  • Carefully check the email. If it involved grammar mistakes, broken language, or signs of machine translation, it's probably not to be trusted;
  • Evaluate the tone of the message. A sense of urgency or desperation is an obvious sign of a scam;
  • Look out for suspicious links or email addresses imitating real websites and senders (for example, https://www.amazon.trade.net/ instead of https://www.amazon.com/);
  • If a seller asks you to make a payment outside Amazon's official payment system or to use gift cards instead of money, it's most likely a scam;
  • The same goes for most cases where things just sound too good to be true. If you've received an Amazon voucher worth 1000 US dollars that requires you to click on some dodgy link to access it, it's a fraud.

Also, keep in mind that Amazon representatives never:

  • Asks people to verify or provide their personal information or credentials;
  • Asks to make any payments for their services;
  • Prompt you to install any third-party software.

How to prevent Amazon scams

  • Never make payments outside the Amazon system;
  • Don't click on suspicious links. If you wish to check something, log in to your Amazon account by visiting their page or via the official app. If the order is not listed there, you didn't make it;
  • Never provide any personal information or credentials to people claiming to be Amazon representatives;
  • Always use track-and-trace postage when selling something;
  • If an email or a message raises any doubts, always call Amazon to double-check it with their legitimate representatives;
  • To avoid landing on fake malicious websites, use NordVPN. Its Threat Protection feature checks a real-time list of websites that are known for hosting malware. If it detects you’re trying to visit a dangerous page, NordVPN will block your access.

What to do if you've become an Amazon scam victim

First of all, immediately report it to Amazon fraud department if you encounter and/or become a victim of a scam. Also, immediately terminate all communications with a criminal.

If a scam takes place outside Amazon's system and there is no way to resolve it, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement institutions.

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