Amazon Scam Prevention Cautions Consumers About False Urgency, Bogus Postcards

online fraud

Amazon scam prevention is flagging new tactics aimed at separating unsuspecting consumers from their money. Abigail Bishop, head of scam prevention at Amazon, tells PYMNTS the emergence of false text messages and fake order confirmations are just a few of the trending traps that are on the rise this year.

“Any communication, whether text messages or email or phone call, that you’re feeling this sense of false urgency,” Bishop told PYMNTS, “You need to stop and think about it,” she said, noting that in the case of Amazon customers’ message center and order history are fool proof places to verify what you’ve bought.

It’s not just text and email scams that are on the rise and evolving, as more users are reportedly getting tripped up on the telephone too, a tactic she said carries its own unique vulnerabilities for some consumers.

“The tricky part is that often they will give you a phone number to call that feels really legitimate and when you call them, you’re relieved because you’re actually talking to a real person,” Bishop said. “The trick is, that this is actually a scammer, and they are actually part of a criminal network,” she said, while reminding consumers to never divulge card or personal information.

She also warned that postcards with QR codes that direct consumers to a fraudulent site are also new and on the rise year.

Array of Targets

To be sure, as Bishop said, scammers have gotten “very, very clever” and are also very good at understanding the way that retailers interact with consumers and emulating them.

In fact, they’re so good that there is no limit to who they will target as new data has shown that younger consumers are more likely to be the victims of online fraud than their older counterparts.

The latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight report from the Federal Trade Commission showed 18 to 59-year-old consumers were 86% more likely to be duped by online shopping fraud, and a staggering 330% more likely to experience investment scam losses.

Part of this skew toward youth has to do with the amount of time younger, digital natives spend online, while it also reflects the comfort and trust this generation has buying things they haven’t seen or touched from people they don’t know.

While most of these scams target consumers directly and are merely using a retailer or brand name as cover, PYMNTS research has shown that bad online experiences — regardless of who is at fault — have negative ripple effects on customer retention rates and for digital commerce trust and use more broadly.

According to the December Digital Fraud Tracker®, a PYMNTS and DataVisor collaboration, “a smooth experience every step of the way is non-negotiable,” the study said. “This becomes even more urgent, considering that 56% of buyers said they would share bad experiences with colleagues and coworkers, causing potential loss of clients and revenue in the future.”

consumers and fraud

The study also found that 70% of victims were stressed about fraud, even when warned, but almost 40% closed accounts or scaled back usage as a result of a bad experience.

“Although these scams take place outside our store, we will continue to invest in protecting consumers and educating the public on how to avoid scams,” Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of Selling Partner Services, said in a November blog post outlining ways for consumers to protect themselves, while also highlighting the manpower and resources the eCommerce giant is committing to fight fraud in its many forms.

To that point, Amazon says it has over 12,000 employees in multiple locations and departments spearheading its effort, which it said has taken down more than 20,000 phishing websites, 10,000 scam-linked phone numbers and referred over 100 bad actors to law enforcement around the world.

Given Amazon’s leadership role, Bishop said the company feels a sense of responsibility to protect all consumers, via three key efforts. First is empowering consumers through education; second is ensuring customers know “it’s really us” when they are engaging with Amazon reps; and third, accountability and a greater push to punish those who break the law.

In short, it’s clearly a big, bad world out there and consumers need to be extra mindful of the risks that arrive in their inboxes and cellphone, versus shopping and transacting directly with a brand you know.

“You are safe when you are shopping on our Amazon store,” she said.

For all PYMNTS retail coverage, subscribe to the daily Retail Newsletter.