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Security & privacy

Don’t fall for it! Scammers con woman out of $5K over phony Amazon purchases

Scammers are out there. They’re targeting victims through email, fake ads, malicious websites, text messages, social media posts and more. As soon as we catch one scam, another bunch takes its place.

A recent viral TikTok video tells a story about a family staying at a hotel and ordering room service from a fake menu slipped under their door. The father revealed his debit card credentials to a scammer when he placed his order. Tap or click here for more on this scary situation and how you can avoid it.

It seems like everyone shops on Amazon, doesn’t it? It’s no surprise that crooks invoke the name of the retail juggernaut as part of their trade. One woman was conned out of thousands in a phone scam where she was led to believe someone had accessed her Amazon account.

The call

A 79-year-old woman in Michigan was conned out of thousands of dollars in a phone scam in May, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press. A woman called the victim and said that an order for $1,581 was placed on her Amazon account.

The caller passed the phone to a man claiming to be a U.S. Marshal. He said that several bank accounts had been opened using the older woman’s ID and that $270,000 had been transferred out of one of these accounts. The man accused the victim of fraud.

Next, the “Marshal” told the woman that she had to withdraw her money in cash and load it onto gift cards so that the government doesn’t seize it. Gift cards? That’s an old trick used by many scammers and a major red flag.

The woman went to her credit union and took out $6,500 in cash. She was then instructed by the man on the phone to drive to a retail store and buy $2,000 in gift cards. The scammers had her read off the numbers on the gift cards once they were loaded with her money.

The man then instructed the victim to visit another store to buy more gift cards. After that, she was exhausted and went home. She had put about $5,000 on gift cards by the end.

The victim called the police the next day, ignoring more calls from the scammer. The officer who came by confirmed that all the money on the gift cards was gone.

What to do if this happens to you

If you’ve fallen for this scam or one like it, you need to take immediate action. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Write down any information about the scammer and block their phone number. Take screenshots of your conversation to show the police.
  • Contact the gift card issuer and ask to speak with the fraud department if they have one. If not, tell the customer service representative that you’ve been the victim of a scam and ask if they can refund your losses. Do not throw away the gift card or gift receipt.
  • File a police report and report the scam to the FTC.

Tap or click here for more information on what to do if you’ve been scammed.

Protect yourself from future scams

You can take precautions to reduce your chances of falling victim. Here are some suggestions:

  • No government entity and most companies would never ask for payment in gift cards.
  • Don’t give personal information if you don’t trust the person or can’t verify their identity.
  • Never send payment in any form to someone on the phone who you don’t know.
  • If a caller creates a sense of urgency, hang up.
  • If you get a call or email about suspicious activity on one of your accounts, log in to that account to confirm.

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