Scammers are nearly ubiquitous on online marketplaces, and Amazon is no exception. From hilariously misspelled emails to eerily convincing phone calls, these scams come in many forms and grow more elaborate by the day. And one scam in particular that’s becoming worryingly common now is the Amazon unauthorized purchase scam.
It starts off simple: The would-be victim receives a scam call or phishing email from “Amazon”, informing them that a pricey item has been purchased through their Amazon account. To avoid being charged for this alleged transaction, they would have to call a specific number or click a link to contact “customer support”.
Of course, these are really just scammers impersonating Amazon representatives—who’ll convince the user to divulge their account details and other personal data. Once this information is provided, the scammers will be able to make actual, fraudulent purchases through the user’s account or credit card. And there lies the cruel irony of this scam: In trying to rectify a completely bogus purchase, the poor user is now going to fall victim to the real thing.
How to identify an unauthorized purchase scam
With scams constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated over time, it’s not always easy to tell what’s really legit. But as a rule of thumb, here are some common things to look out for:
If it’s an email…
Verify the sender’s email address
Is the email address actually from the brand it’s claiming to be, or just attempting to imitate its format? Are there any misspellings? Does it contain a strange mix of letters and numbers? If so, it’s more than likely to be fake.
Examine its content
Go over everything with a fine-tooth comb, including the email’s subject line and images. Weird logos and spelling or grammatical errors—especially regarding your name, account username, or the service in question—are dead giveaways. And while you’re at it, avoid opening any links or attachments as they may contain malware, or direct you to fraudulent websites designed to steal your credentials if you attempt to log in.
If it’s a phone call…
Cross-check the number
If the number is anything but the service’s official customer support number (Amazon’s is 1-888-280-4331), you should be on guard. This is especially if the number has a preceding country code, as those are highly likely to be scammers.
Be wary of the information being requested
Customer support should never be asking for highly sensitive information over the phone, such as your bank account and credit card details, passwords, and social security number. If you’re ever asked to install an app or file on your device, it’s safe to conclude that you’re dealing with a bona fide scammer, as doing so can leave you vulnerable to hacking and data theft. Any questions along these lines should immediately put you on high alert—remember, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
And in general…
When in doubt, go directly to the source. Log in to your account on the Amazon website, check your purchase history, and if need be, contact customer support via the site. That way, you know you’re seeing the real deal.
What to do if you find an Amazon unauthorized purchase scam
Whether you’re certain it’s a scam or just don’t want to take any chances, the best thing to do is to report it.
Amazon’s reporting system covers a range of reports tailored to the mode of suspicious activity (via phone call/email/text, unsolicited packages, or gift card fraud). For the former, there are different options depending on how you may have responded to the potential scam. After the report has been made, simply block the sender’s email or number so they won’t be able to contact you after.
If the scam has already occurred, it’s advisable to report the matter to your local authorities. If you’re in the U.S., you can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), either via their website or their hotline 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Other common Amazon scams
“Suspicious activity detected” alerts
Designed to incite urgency, this email scam appears as a warning that there has been “suspicious activity” on your account—and that it may even be blocked! The email claims that to “retrieve” or “verify” your account, you’ll have to click on an embedded link and fill in your Amazon login details… which would, of course, be promptly stolen by scammers.
Fake prizes, bonuses, or gifts
This works in much the same way as other email scams on this list, though this time, you might be told that you’ve won some money, are eligible for a prize, or even that your accumulated Amazon points are about to expire. The goal is the same: To get you to click a fraudulent “redemption” link and provide your account details.
Buy gift cards for someone important
Received an urgent plea for Amazon gift cards from an unfamiliar number or email address, that’s claiming to be your boss/family member? You guessed it—that’s a scam. Luckily, this is pretty easily verified: Just reach out to your actual boss or relative to confirm if they’ve really sent that through.
Tech support impostors
Scammers posing as Amazon tech support may call or email unwitting users, telling them that their account has issues or may have been compromised. In order to save their account, the user may be persuaded to give up their details or install fraudulent third-party software on their device.
This scam is slightly different in that it targets Amazon sellers directly. The scammer will place an order, then claim they didn’t receive the item in hopes of getting a refund. Luckily, this is much less of an issue nowadays as most sellers opt for track-and-trace postage.
“Alternative” payment methods
On the flip side, this scam targets Amazon buyers by trying to convince them to pay on a different platform. The scammers may try to sweeten the deal by offering discounts and other incentives, but once the transaction has been completed, will disappear entirely so the buyer never gets their item or their money back. And in these cases, Amazon will be unable to help, since the transaction took place outside of their platform.
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FAQ: About Amazon unauthorized purchase scams
Will Amazon refund unauthorized purchases?
If it is a legitimate unauthorized purchase (i.e., someone used your account to buy products without your permissions), Amazon will refund you for a return of the goods.
If you’ve fallen victim to an unauthorized purchase email scam, report it to Amazon, your local law enforcement authorities (and reportfraud.ftc.gov if you’re in the U.S.), and your credit card company. Your credit card company may be able to reverse these fraudulent charges.
How can you tell if an Amazon email is real?
In general, check that:
– There are no typos or grammatical errors, including in the email address and subject line
– The email address format exactly matches Amazon’s
– Your name or account details, if included, are accurate
– There aren’t any unusual links or attachments
As long as something feels off, don’t take any chances. Report the email immediately.
Does Amazon send security alert emails?
Yes, Amazon does send occasional security alert emails, such as if someone has logged on to your account using a new device. It can be difficult to tell a legitimate security alert email from some scam emails. When in doubt about the security of your account, change your password, and always use two-factor authentication.
Who do I call if my Amazon account has been hacked?
Amazon does have a customer service number (1-888-280-4331), but your best course of action to safeguard your account can be done on Amazon’s website.
If you’ve discovered or suspect that your account has been hacked, try logging in immediately and change your password, then remove any sensitive information—including your stored payment methods. Check your order history to ensure that your account hasn’t been used for an unexpected spending spree, and then lodge a report to Amazon.
Always use two-factor authentication, which makes it much more difficult for someone to break into your account even if they know your password.
How do I see all of my Amazon transactions?
Once you’ve logged in on Amazon, go to Your Accounts > Your Orders. You’ll be able to see a comprehensive list of all your Amazon purchases, sorted by time period.
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