Though 2021 is quickly winding down, scams are still rampant, especially during the holiday season.
In recent years, a dramatic increase in online shopping has fed a particular type of scam – Amazon impersonators.
“For the past few months, Amazon account scams have consistently been the most popular scams we’ve seen,” said Sylvia Bencomo, who works with the Green Valley SAV Scam Squad.
“Even people who don’t have Amazon accounts, we’ve found, are absolutely panicked about it,” she said.
Victims of this type of impersonation typically receive an email, call or text message explaining that there has been suspicious activity or charge on their Amazon account, and urging them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised or being charged for a fraudulent purchase.
They’ll then ask the customer for account information or credit card information to rectify the charge, or to remove a “hold” on their account. Regardless of the ploy, Bencomo said the motive is usually the same: hijacking your personal or financial information to use against you.
“In this case, the most important thing we tell people is just that if they do have an Amazon account, go online and see if there is anything wrong,” she said.
“Amazon will likely never call you for an error or a backorder. If there’s any issues with your items or account, they typically send an email and ask you to respond there. Also, they won’t ask you for your account or credit card number because your information usually is already registered with Amazon,” she said.
If you’re still uncertain or suspicious, Bencomo said the next best thing you can do is call the SAV Scam Squad.
“If you're in doubt, be proactive and give us a call before you take action. It’s better to give us a call before you do something because once you’ve done something, it’s too late,” she said.
Though many people purchase them for friends and loved ones during the holidays, Bencomo said to be wary of gift cards this season, especially if you’re being asked to send them somewhere or use them as a form of payment.
“Gift cards are only to buy gifts at the store that the card is from. It is not to pay bills. It is not to pay the IRS. It is not to pay for anything other than to pay for something at that store. We try to make this really clear, yet we still have people falling for these scams,” Bencomo said.
Sergeant Mike Blevins of the Sahuarita Police Department said his office gets calls weekly, if not daily, about scam messages – often about fraudulent prizes or gift card redemptions.
“The main thing we tell people is not to ever give anything up over the phone or email. And if people are asking you to go purchase gift cards for them, it’s usually not legitimate,” Blevins said.
“If you’re not sure, it’s also OK to get their contact information and step away. Take a moment to call us, or do some research online and verify whatever information they gave you for yourself,” he said.
Scammers have also been known to tamper with in-store gift cards, Bencomo said, by recording the numbers associated with that card, including the activation PIN. Before purchasing a gift card, be sure to look carefully at the packaging for any tears, wrinkles or other indications of tampering, especially if the PIN is exposed.
Another, safer alternative is to simply purchase a gift card online, directly from the store’s website, so you can gift them confidently, Bencomo said.
“Just make sure that if you’re going to buy a gift card, you get it from a reliable and reputable source and keep the receipts – sometimes those can even help you to recover something because once you give someone the numbers on the phone, that money is as good as gone,” she said.
If you have been a victim of a scam, there are some steps you can take. If any of your bank accounts or credit card accounts have been compromised, change your passwords, consider canceling your credit card, and contact your local law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission to file a report.
If you hear or see something suspicious, call or leave a message with the Green Valley SAV Scam Squad before you take action at (520) 351-6715.
You can also go to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker to learn more about the most popular scams in your area.