How Scammers Use Fake Amazon Emails to Steal Money

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How Scammers Use Fake Amazon Emails to Steal Money

Scammers use bogus Amazon emails to steal money from unwary victims. Everyone knows this occurs often, but it doesn’t mean people aren’t still duped. And getting duped using Amazon emails is not uncommon!

But how do these ruses operate? And what can you do to stay away from them?

Who Does the Amazon Email Scam Target?

As with other frauds, the perpetrators target the most technologically susceptible population—our elderly. They realize that most people aren’t tech-savvy, so they’re easy prey. They also make their calls while the elderly are alone. This is because the majority of the younger generation can readily detect a scam and stop it before it starts. The issue is so widespread that the FTC estimated that Americans lost $27 million to Amazon scams in 2021.

They also prey on those who are unfamiliar with technology and security. After all, it’s impossible to deceive someone who knows their orders and Amazon’s security measures. That is why they send out bogus Amazon emails that seem legitimate but vary greatly from the genuine communications sent by Amazon.

When someone who is unfamiliar with how Amazon works sees that they have been charged for something they did not purchase, they will instantly phone the linked toll-free number, which will then direct them to the scammer’s call center.

How the Scam Begins

The majority of fraudsters send a bulk email with a bogus Amazon order. It differs greatly from a valid Amazon Order Confirmation message and generally includes the following statement or a version of it in bold:

If you want to cancel this order, please contact us at our Toll Free Number: (XXX) XXX-XXXXX.

Once they’ve sent this email to possibly hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of recipients, all they have to do is sit back and wait for someone to bite.

When they get a call at the number they provided in this email, the frauds begin. They’ll start by performing a “refund” for the victim, making it seem as though they’re doing them a favor. To do this, they will urge the victim to go online and then teach them to install a remote accessing application, such as Teamviewer, to allow the scammer to manage the victim’s computer.

When the victim does this, the fraudster will check the victim’s genuine bank account to see whether an automated refund has already been issued. Given that there is no genuine transaction, the victim will not have received a refund.

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When the victim realizes they haven’t received their refund, the fraudster will black out their screen and claim to call another department to complete the refund. During this period, the fraudster develops a bogus banking page that displays an exorbitant amount, i.e. a bogus refund. They will also establish rapport with the victim, which will be important later on.

After a few minutes, they’ll contact the victim and inform them that the refund was unsuccessful. They will then launch a command prompt window and set up a bogus “banking server” to handle the refund. They’ll claim that the victim must enter all of the information themselves, and that once the victim pushes enter, it’s permanent.

When the victim inputs their information, including the return amount, into the “banking server,” the scammer will add an extra digit to the refund number to make it seem like the victim made a mistake. So, if you type a $250 return, the fraudster will swiftly replace two zeroes immediately before you hit enter, making it $25,000 instead of $250,000.

All of the following procedures taken by fraudsters are just preparation for the scam. Once the victim makes the “error” with the alleged banking server, the scam starts.

How Does the Amazon Scam Work?

Because the victim’s access into the “banking server” is permanent, the fraudster will seem worried and claim the victim is in danger. They will then go to the false banking website established by the fraudster and display that a credit equivalent to the incorrect entry made by the victim has been credited.

This is when the fraudster will put their empathy for the victim to use. They will emphasize that they have a family, cannot quit their job, and cannot afford the $25,000 loss—all while pointing out that it was the victim’s fault. The victim will then be asked to reimburse the additional $24750 they “refunded” to make things right.

The fraudster will claim that the victim is a wonderful person who knows they will do the “right thing.” They will then advise the victim to transfer the money through package in cash. They’ll also instruct the victim not to inform anybody and to remain on the line with the scammer throughout the whole procedure.

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If the victim deviates from the fraudsters’ strategy, they will shout, call frequently, and do all they can to stress them out. As a result, individuals usually obey the orders without thinking about it.

They are encouraged to place the “extra return” in a book or wrap it in cling film and foil after withdrawing it from the bank to prevent discovery in the mail. Once the victim delivers the box with the money, the game is done. The victim loses almost $24,000 and has little to no prospect of recovering it.

Why Not Just Take the Cash?

“Why go through all this trouble?” you may question. After all, the con artists had already gained access to the victim’s bank account. Can’t they simply deposit the money into their account? They do not do so since most banks and financial institutions are aware of such schemes.

When they discover the account holder making such a large transfer, they are required to put it on hold until the victim can settle the matter with their bank. After all, foreign money transfers often take a few days. When this occurs, the hoax becomes obvious, causing it to collapse.

They also no longer urge the victim to buy gift cards since many gift card companies are aware of the scam. When they see someone buying a significant quantity of gift cards, they tend to stop the victim, stopping the fraud.

How to Spot a Scam

Knowing how to recognize a money scam is one of the greatest ways to prevent being taken advantage of. So, if you get a questionable email or phone call saying you’ve been charged, here’s what you should do.

1. Read the Email or Listen to the Call Carefully

Most businesses use a consistent email style or phone script. They do this to maintain a perception of professionalism, particularly while interacting with consumers. So, if the email doesn’t seem right, or if the phone pitch feels odd, the message is most likely a hoax.

Also, remember to verify who sent the email. Amazon’s official email will only originate from an Amazon domain.

2. Watch for Links or Phone Numbers Different From What’s Listed on Official Websites

You may contact companies through official hotlines and email addresses. They also have official websites where you may contact company representatives. So, if you get a questionable email or phone call, do not respond to it.

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Instead, open a new tab or browser and go to the official Amazon website, or seek for their official hotline and contact them directly. You’ll know you’re working with reputable corporate personnel this way.

3. Check Your Amazon Account

If someone claims that you made a purchase on your account, the simplest approach to determine if the allegation is true is to log in to your account and review your transaction history. If there is no matching order number, the alleged transaction is a forgery.

Even if a matching transaction exists, cancellation and refund should always be handled via the official Amazon website or app.

4. Do Not Send Cash—Ever

When someone you don’t know asks you to give money, it’s a scam, particularly if they want you to conceal it from your family, bank, and authorities. If they have a genuine transaction, you will not have any problems.

5. Have a Knowledgeable and Trusted Friend or Relative Check the Message

If you’re unclear if an email or phone contact is genuine, ask someone you trust and who is informed before acting on it. That manner, they can check with you if the communication is genuine or a fraud. Don’t be fooled by someone pressuring you to act hastily; a genuine agent will not push you.

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

As we do more of our shopping online, more and more individuals will attempt to take advantage of those who are inexperienced with it. Even if you know how to defend yourself, it’s terrible that the majority of fraudsters’ victims are seniors.

So, if you have a friend or family who you believe is prone to these kind of assaults, inform them of the dangers. Tell them to wait for you if a stranger asks them to transfer money, even if it was “accidentally” placed in their account. That manner, you can determine if the transaction is genuine or not.

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