Amazon Scams: Protecting Yourself, Your Porch, and Your Accounts

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Lyndon Seitz
Writer
Dolores Bernal
Editor
September 13, 2023
black Samsung Galaxy smartphone displaying Amazon logo

Photo by Christian Wiediger

How many emails or communications from Amazon have you gotten in the last week, in one form or another? Did you get a couple or a few dozen? For some people, Amazon effectively rules their online and shopping lives.

It’s some combination of impressive and scary.

With all the money going into Amazon, it stands to reason that scammers would want a piece of that annually-cooked $500 billion pie. And they realize trying to trick consumers is easier than trying to trick Amazon (most of the time, anyway). Therefore, scammers will try every scam variant they can think of.

It’s a prolific problem; you must know how to protect yourself and notice the scams before scammers hook you with their shiny, faux Amazon-branded black and orange tricks, stealing your identity or money.

The good news is that you train yourself to respond to Amazon scams correctly (typically ignoring them). I have all the necessary information and will guide you through common tactics scammers use.

What Are Amazon Scams?

Amazon Notebook Laptop

Image by Simon

It can seem like a broad term, but an Amazon scam is ultimately one of a category of impersonation scams where a scammer will impersonate an Amazon representative or system. The goal is to gain the victim’s personal information or money.

Everything else about an Amazon scam is negotiable, and we’ll get into all the options shortly in just a bit.

How Prevalent Are Amazon Scams

There’s no more common type of scam. Amazon has become the scammer’s darling to impersonate because everyone uses it, and everyone would have a reason to suspect they’d be getting an email from the company.

The most impersonated brands in the world are Apple and Amazon. Out of reported business impersonators, six percent are impersonating Apple. Amazon has 35 percent of impersonators imitating them. Nothing else comes close.

This means that hundreds of thousands of people get scammed by Amazon impersonators every year, and the number is likely to grow year after year.

How and Why Do They Work?

Amazon scams wouldn’t be here for very long if they didn’t have some degree of effectiveness. They’re here because they work, resulting in large “profits” for the scammers.

Why?

Because many people trust Amazon blindly and will automatically trust Amazon branding, even though anyone can copy a picture of an Amazon logo and post it in an email, website, or article.

amazon

It took me 30 seconds to find this image and put it in the article, and scammers typically aren’t concerned with trademarks or copyright law.

As for how they work, it depends on the type of scam. But in all cases, the scam hinges on people’s inherent trust in specific brands and companies, namely Amazon in this case

Scammers figure that if a notable company or authority tells people to do something, they won’t question it. And often, they’re right. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you’ll have the foundation for your defense.

The Main Targets of Amazon Scams

The main targets of Amazon scams are Internet users, which is to say practically everyone. Most everyone interacts with Amazon, and thus everyone is fair game to scammers.

However, certain groups, such as those not technologically savvy and the elderly, are especially vulnerable to Amazon scams, as they would be to most online scams. Please try to inform these people of the information in this piece and do what you can to protect them.

Types of Amazon Scams

Delivery Man Package image

Image by Tumisu

1. Phishing

Most scams are a type of phishing scams. 

The scammer will pretend to be someone affiliated with Amazon if not just the company itself. They will then usually try to obtain information, get you to send them a payment (often in gift cards, the preferred currency of scammers), or click on a link that leads to malware.

Defense: Understand that you will not get communications from Amazon except via an official Amazon email address. Additionally, look for oddities in the message’s formatting, subject line, etc. Scammers often get these things wrong.

If you’re ever unsure, don’t answer the communications and contact Amazon directly from your end through official channels.

2. Fake Orders

People order many things on Amazon, often to the degree that they might not remember they ordered something.

Oh, I ordered a coffee maker for $400 and need to pay still? I’ll click on this link and get that taken care of.”

That’s what scammers hope people will think when they send texts or emails saying there is an invoice due to Amazon and that you should pay immediately to the following link or phone number. There’s typically a sense of urgency to these messages, but don’t fall for it and stay calm.

Defense: You can always check your Amazon account’s “orders” page to see what you ordered. If it’s not on Amazon’s website, it isn’t real. Meanwhile, never click the link in the email or text, or call the number provided.

3. Fake Prizes

“YOU WERE ENTERED AND WON AN AMAZON GIFT CARD! PLEASE CLICK THIS LINK TO ACCEPT YOUR PRIZE?”

Have you received an email like the above, though formatted so that it hurts your eyes and makes you despair at the state of modern communications?

There’s likely one in your spam folder. It’s a common scam and a variation of the sweepstakes scam in Amazon colors. 

No, you didn’t win a prize, especially if you didn’t enter anything. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Defense: Amazon doesn’t typically do prizes like that, and they’ll certainly not be asking for your private bank information to collect the prize. Be careful of what the email asks, and don’t click on links. Ignore it.

4. Refund Scams

Refund scams are when a scammer says that their intended target is due a refund or that they made an overpayment somehow. However, the intended victim must confirm the order and enter personal information to get their money. 

Alternatively, the scammer might ask the recipient for a fee to receive the refund.

Note that this isn’t to be confused with refund fraud that Amazon sellers have to deal with (an entirely different topic).

Defense: This is not how Amazon does refunds. Amazon would already have all the information they need.

You can always check on Amazon’s website or with customer service to see the actual situation.

5. Brushing Scams

Brushing scams are when a seller or person sends a (usually very cheap) package to an address, seemingly randomly. The package is just there on your doorstep, and you don’t know what to do about it.

Why on earth would someone do this, sending a package that presumably cost money to a random person? Amazon reviews, or specifically reviews from verified buyers. After the package is sent, the sender will write a “verified buyer” review on the product.

How does this affect you? It means that someone has your personal address and is using it in their scams.

Defense: Try not to have your home address publicly available. Otherwise, there’s little you can do to stop this from happening. 

Otherwise, after making sure it’s not a surprise gift from someone, contact Amazon customer support about the issue. You can do whatever you want with the item.

6. Amazon Call Scams

Amazon doesn’t call people often, but scammers do. They pretend to be Amazon, hoping to get information or money out of people.

Their script will vary, but scammers will inevitably ask for things they shouldn’t be asking for. Perhaps it’s to “prevent fraud” or “verify a purchase.” 

Defense: Get off the call when you think it’s a scam. Amazon conducts nearly all of its communications with average customers through email and messages on the platform. They won’t ask for personal information when they use the phone.

7. Review Scams

In a common type of review scam, someone claiming to be a seller on Amazon will reach out to people to write reviews in exchange for cash or a free product. It might look more like a job offer, or it might look like a quick, spur-of-the-moment thing.

The scammer hopes to get quick reviews for their store or lure you in with the promise of money or free stuff (and probably not even stuff you really want).

The result is one of the following:

  • The scammer is trying to get quick and easy reviews for their products that can’t get them naturally. They won’t pay much, if at all, and it isn’t worth your time.
  • The link to send you to the product for review or the store page is to a fake Amazon website that collects personal information.
  • The link just leads to malware.

Defense: Don’t write Amazon reviews for money. Just ignore these messages. It is against Amazon’s terms and conditions and could lead to your Amazon account being banned.

8. “Suspicious Activity” or Account Verification Scams

A very common type of phishing scam, someone (this time claiming to be Amazon) says your account has been compromised or you need to reset your password, typically for security reasons. You must immediately go to this link or website and reset your information.

That link? It probably leads to malware. That website to put in information? It’s not Amazon, and it’s there to steal your information.

And why would Amazon need my social security number to verify my account, anyway?

Defense: Try logging onto your Amazon account without touching anything in the email. If you can get in just fine, it’s a scam. If you can’t, then follow the instructions on the site. If you’re worried about suspicious activity, change your password and use two-step verification

How to Spot an Amazon Scammer

There are many ways to detect a scammer. Here are some of the most common or easiest ways to check if something is an Amazon scam or not:

  • Look for various misspellings, typos, etc. 
  • Check if there’s something likely off with the formatting or branding. If your intuition tells you something is off, use more caution or just delete the message.
  • Look at the address of the sender. Amazon emails are going to have a .amazon.com email address
  • Look for a sense of urgency.
  • Does the email start with “Sir” or “Madam” (or something otherwise generalized)?
  • Consider what the sender wants. Do they just want money or personal information?

What to Do If You’ve Fallen for a Scam

Hundreds of thousands of people fall for an Amazon scam each year. You might be one of them, and it’s not a reflection on you. Nonetheless, you have a problem to solve now.

Here’s the process, and take things step by step:

1. Reflect and Refocus

Being in the middle of getting scammed can be scary. You’ll wonder, “What will I do if my identity’s stolen?” or “What will I do without X dollars?” 

We’ll get to those questions, but first, you must have a clear mind. Take time to get your bearings to move on to the next steps quickly and logically.

2. Understand the Scam and What the Scammer Has

What scam variant was used on you? What did the scammer take from you? Answering these two questions will help you determine your next steps and priorities.

Only by understanding the scam will you be able to cut off the scammer effectively and know what to do next.

Only by understanding what the scammer took will you be able to ensure nothing else gets taken.

Review the information above, look up more if you need to, and understand the mechanics of the scam.

3. Cut the Scammer Off and Remove Malware

Block the scammer through whatever channels they used to contact you. Don’t give them a chance. The only chance they’ll give you is the chance to get scammed again.

Was malware installed on your computer? Even if you are unsure, now is a great time to recommit to information and online security by installing a security suite and running a scan of your device(s). I recommend Norton, McAfee, or AVG for this.

4. Report the Scammer to the Proper Channels

This will help you possibly get restitution from the scammers and potentially stop the scammer from claiming other victims.

Proper channels can include:

  • Your credit card company or bank
  • The FTC
  • Amazon customer service
  • Administrators of any affected accounts

5. Freeze Accounts and Your Credit

Freezing your credit is much easier than you think. You just need to go to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and ask for a credit freeze from each of them. If this has yet to happen, you may also want to put a watch on your credit cards and accounts. 

If you believe other accounts have been compromised (your email account or bank account, for example), take steps to protect and freeze those accounts as needed.

6. See How Amazon Customer Service Can Assist You

Your situation won’t be Amazon’s first rodeo with scammers (or second, or millionth). In nearly every case, they will have seen your scam variant before and might be able to help you. If an order was placed and you catch it early enough, they may be able to cancel it or get you a refund. They may be able to help you protect your account or information.

And they’re very interested in learning about scammers pretending to be them.

If you find yourself caught up in a scam, make it a step to contact Amazon customer service.

Amazon

Source: Amazon

7. Update Account Information

If your account was stolen or compromised in any way, you should change your password and security settings. Given the number of passwords we use daily, you can use a password manager such as Bitwarden or NordPass to help with this.

You may also want to check your personal information on those accounts to see if it was tampered with.

8. Protect Your Identity and Monitor for More Problems

Identity theft is a chief concern when dealing with Amazon scammers. You need to focus on protecting your identity and accounts. Yet monitoring your accounts can be tiresome. Thankfully, you can outsource the task. Aura is a great option for this, as it will let you know if there is an issue worth your attention and provide other benefits.

9. Learn What You Can

It is always a good idea to reflect on what has happened to you in these situations. Is there anything that you could have done better? It’s not about beating yourself up about it, it’s about making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Take notes, create a list of actionable items, and work to implement them.

Conclusion – It’s a Big Market for Scams, but You’re Bigger

Whatever scammers throw at you in Amazon-branded colors, you can handle it. You now have all the information you need to get started protecting yourself, and if you’ve been scammed, I hope you’ve resolved the problem and your identity is safe.

Prevent Amazon scammers from interfering with your shopping and life. Learn about the most common scams, recognize the signs, and get identity and malware protection today (I recommend Aura if you’re worried about your identity). The peace of mind will be worth your efforts, and you’ll protect yourself from more than just Amazon scams.

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