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Amazon Prime Scams Surge Ahead of Holiday Shopping, FBI Issues Warning

Stay informed and secure this holiday season as Amazon confronts a surge in Prime scams.
Amazon Prime | Getty Images
Amazon Prime | Getty Images

As the holiday season approaches and shoppers gear up for the annual Black Friday extravaganza, is sounding the alarm on a surge in scams targeting its customers. The e-commerce giant has identified two prevalent types of scams that are on the rise, emphasizing the need for users to stay vigilant during the festive shopping period.

Amazon | Getty Images
Amazon | Getty Images

One prevalent scam involves criminals posing as Amazon customer service representatives, utilizing email attachment schemes to trick users into revealing sensitive information. Scott Knapp, Amazon's director of worldwide buyer risk prevention, highlights the modus operandi: "It's clicking on the link in the attachment, which goes straight to their website, where they start collecting all kinds of information." The number of reported cases of email attachment schemes has doubled in the second half of 2023, posing a significant threat to users' security.

Amazon reports a fourfold increase in scams targeting Prime members. Scammers are reaching out via calls, texts, and emails, claiming issues with membership fees or account problems. Knapp explains the deceptive strategy: "They send out notices that there's a problem and say contact us to straighten things out. Give us your credit card information or bank account info to verify it." This surge in Prime scams comes at a time when members are actively engaging with the platform for holiday shopping, making it a prime target for exploitation.

The Amazon Prime | Getty Images
The Amazon Prime | Getty Images

In its relentless commitment to user security, Amazon has actively taken measures to combat scams, closing down over 45,000 phishing websites and blocking more than 15,000 phone numbers associated with scammers this year. Central to Amazon's safeguarding efforts is the declaration that the company will never request money or payment information over the phone or through email, a point underscored by Scott Knapp, Amazon's director of worldwide buyer risk prevention. Users are advised to be vigilant against scams, with specific emphasis on recognizing red flags such as requests for payment to resolve alleged customer account issues, a practice Amazon explicitly states it would never engage in. Another cautionary note is sounded against scammers favoring gift cards as a method of payment due to their ease of use and difficulty in tracing. Amazon encourages users to exercise caution when asked to pay for services solely with gift cards, emphasizing that legitimate transactions do not require such methods.

To empower users in identifying potential scams, Amazon provides practical advice, urging individuals to pause and verify the legitimacy of unexpected communications before responding. This precautionary measure, such as going directly to Amazon's official website or app and avoiding clicking on suspicious links, serves as a crucial step in safeguarding against the inadvertent sharing of sensitive information. Recognizing the prevalence of fraud, Amazon actively encourages users to report suspicious activities promptly. Reporting fraud not only enables Amazon to investigate incidents but also allows the company to take necessary actions against bad actors.

Furthermore, users who believe they have fallen victim to a scam are advised to contact their bank or credit card issuer, as financial institutions are often willing to reimburse customers during the investigative process. Scott Knapp emphasizes that fraud is an "equal opportunity industry," reminding users that individuals of all backgrounds, regardless of intelligence or age, can be targeted. He urges customers not to feel ashamed but to proactively address fraudulent activities, ensuring a safer online experience for all users.

FBI | Getty Images
FBI | Getty Images

The FBI joins Amazon in alerting online shoppers and sellers about potential scams during the holiday season. The agency reported almost 12,000 victims of non-payment/non-delivery scams during the 2022 holiday shopping season, resulting in losses exceeding $73 million. The FBI provides valuable tips for both buyers and sellers to stay alert, emphasizing caution regarding emails advertising hot-ticket items, untrusted websites with unrealistic discounts, and social media posts offering vouchers and contests.

To safeguard against scams, Amazon advises users never to share payment information over the phone or by email and to be wary of requests for payment via gift cards. Knapp suggests taking a moment before responding to unexpected communications, stating, "If it's something you didn't expect, pause before you start clicking on anything, texting someone back, or calling them back. Verify it, go to the source, to our website, or our app." Additionally, users are encouraged to report fraud promptly, allowing Amazon to investigate incidents and hold scammers accountable.

The FBI recommends verifying websites with secure protocols (https://), using credit cards dedicated to online purchases, and reporting fraudulent activities to both the FBI IC3 and the online payment service involved. The agency underscores the importance of not clicking on unsolicited email links, maintaining updated antivirus/malware software, and using unique passwords. As the holiday season unfolds, Amazon and the FBI unite in their efforts to ensure a safe and secure online shopping experience. Shoppers are reminded that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it might just be a scam. Stay vigilant, report suspicious activity, and enjoy a fraud-free festive shopping spree.