If it feels like more and more scammers and spammers are flooding your various inboxes, that’s probably because they are.
Fake text messages and emails containing phishing attempts by virtual scammers have been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. And one of the most common methods used by scammers lately is fake messages pretending to be from an Amazon representative who could claim to be checking out suspicious activity on your account or even a late package .
Typically, these phishing or “smishing” attacks — also known as SMS phishing — aim to trick you into believing you’re communicating with a legitimate representative of the e-commerce giant. If you’re not careful, you could transfer valuable personal information from your credit card information to login credentials for your online accounts or click on malware-infested links that infect your devices with viruses.
The Federal Trade Commission reports that US consumers lost a total of approximately $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, up 70% from the previous year. About a third of these came from scammers.
So what can you do to ensure you don’t fall for one of these increasingly common spammer scams?
How to look for scams
Do not click on any links or provide any personal information unless you are absolutely sure that you are actually speaking with a genuine representative of Amazon or another legitimate company or organization.
The FTC notes that there are several telltale signs often associated with scammers who “can use a variety of ever-changing stories to try to snare you.” These include:
- Promise you won a free prize
- Offering some form of low-interest credit
- Warning about allegedly suspicious account activity
- Say there is a problem with your billing information
- send you a fake invoice
Amazon itself offers an online guide to help its customers identify suspicious messages masquerading as official Amazon communications. The company says that red flags include order confirmations for items you didn’t order and messages with grammatical errors or requests to install software.
The company says that if you’re suspicious about a message requesting updated payment information, you should go to the Your Orders page of your online Amazon account. “If this screen doesn’t prompt you to update your payment method, then the message didn’t come from Amazon,” the company says.
Many scammers rely on “spoofing,” a practice that tricks your phone’s caller ID into believing you’re receiving a text or call from someone you trust. In some cases, they even mimic your own number, making it appear as if you are calling or texting yourself.
To be extra careful, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends that you “never give out your personal or financial information via email, text message, or phone.”
How to block and report spammers
If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a particular text message or email, the FTC advises you to contact the company or institution’s “verifiable customer service hotline.” Instead of replying to the message you received, visit the company’s website to find a valid contact number or email address.
The easiest way to stop receiving suspicious messages is to block the phone numbers or email addresses that are sending you messages. You can also manage your phone’s filters to filter out calls or SMS from unknown numbers.
Unfortunately, some scammers use different numbers or addresses for each message they send, so you play a virtual game of whack-a-mole and constantly block suspicious numbers and emails while the scammers cycle through new ones.
At this point, consider reporting the spam and phishing attempts to your cell phone service provider or email service, as well as to government agencies—including the FTC’s online complaint form and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cybercrime Complaint Center.
If the suspected scammer claims to represent a specific company like Amazon or a government agency, you can also try to report the attempt to the actual organization. Amazon suggests visiting the company’s Report Suspicious page in the Customer Service section, where you can report any text message, email, or call you’ve received that you suspect isn’t from Amazon.
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