We’ve heard of lottery scams where someone calls you, sends a text message, or email congratulating you for winning the lottery and then asks for an upfront payment of taxes on your winnings. We’re also familiar with debt collection scams where collectors try to collect on legitimate debts you owe, except that they are actually scammers instead of actual debt collectors. There is also the grandparent scam where scammers pretend to be your relatives, such as grandparents and ask you to wire some money.
But nothing screams more of a scam than getting free discounts, coupons, and gift cards. But apparently, a lot of people are still gullible to these kinds of scams, as evidenced by the recent surge in Amazon Gift Card scams around the world. Several people have reported getting emails about receiving free gift cards from Amazon, then they were asked to log into their accounts to claim the freebies. There were also victims who were tricked into buying fake Amazon Gift cards.
These scams are actually social engineering attacks designed to steal the users’ personal information. There are many variations to this scam, but the end results are the same —your data will be stolen and you can lose a lot of money.
This article will discuss what you need to know about the different Amazon Gift Card scams, how to detect one, and what you can do if you’ve been victimized.
What is the Amazon Gift Card Scam?
The Amazon Gift Card scam is a social engineering attack which delivers offers that are too good to be true. There are different types of Amazon Gift Card scams, but while the specifics of these fraud activities may vary, the scammers generally follow a common pattern. First, they connect with the victim via email, phone, social media, text message, or online. Then they create a sense of urgency and ask the victim to pay via gift cards, purchase fake gift cards from them, or buy the gift cards from a nearby store and have the victim send the claim code to them.
Amazon has also raised awareness about these types of scams and warns users to be wary of these deceptive tactics. Here are some of the most common Amazon Gift Card scams that you have be wary of:
Online Listing Scam
Scammers usually post a fake online listing or publish a phony website promoting a car or any other item for sale. The victims who fall for this scam will be asked by the scammer to request you to send them Amazon gift cards as payment for the item. Alternatively, they may ask for the activation codes from the gift card to be sent to them through email or text message. This fraud works similarly as the eBay gift card scams and Walmart gift card scams.
Furthermore, the scammer will tempt the victim with a very low offer, which seems too good to be true, or convince the victim that the item must be sold quickly due to an emergency or a life event that would need a huge amount of money.
Phishing Email Scam
Another tactic of scammers is also known as phishing, where they sometimes try to send you an email posing as your boss or someone from a well-known company. These phishing emails will urge you to buy Amazon gift cards for different reasons. For example, the scammers, acting as your boss, may ask you to purchase gift cards because he is currently traveling or in a meeting, which makes him unable to buy the gift cards himself.
Scammers might also pose as another business, a strategy known as spoofing, and demand gift cards as payment for your subscription renewal or for troubleshooting support.
There are also instances when victims receive a seemingly legitimate email from Amazon asking them to verify their account or update their personal information by logging into their Amazon account. A link is provided in the email that when clicked, will redirect to a website that looks like Amazon. However, if you investigate closely, you’ll notice that the URL is different. This means that the website was created to trick people into logging in to their Amazon accounts and the scammers take advantage of the situation by stealing the users’ login details.
Phone Call Scam
Another version of the Amazon Gift Card scam is when you receive a phone call or text message from someone claiming to be from Amazon. The scammer will notify you that your Amazon account has been suspended or frozen and you need to buy gift cards to activate the account once again.
How to Detect Amazon Gift Card Scam?
Identifying an Amazon Gift Card scam can be tricky, but doing your research and paying extra attention to the details can save you from a lot of trouble. If ever you receive an email that looks like they were sent to Amazon Pay, don’t trust what you see because they may be falsified. These fraud emails might send you to a website that looks the same as the Amazon Pay website. You might even be required to provide account information like your email address and password combination.
These fake websites are designed to steal your sensitive login or payment details, which will then be used to commit fraud. Some phishing messages also contain malware that can read your keystrokes and steal your passwords or sensitive data. Installing an antivirus program should provide you with protection against these malicious applications.
Here are some of the important points you need to consider when you get suspicious emails or calls from Amazon:
Don’t give out your personal information.
According to Amazon’s website, Amazon Pay will never ask you to provide sensitive information via email. If they do need information from you, you will be redirected to the Amazon Pay website. So if someone is asking for your full or partial social security number or tax identification number, your date of birth, your credit card number, PIN, or credit card security code, then there’s a huge chance that it’s a scam.
Don’t download attachments.
If you get a suspicious email that claims to be sent from Amazon Pay and that email includes an attachment, delete the email immediately and do not even try to open the attachment.
Look for grammar or typo errors.
Most phishing emails are either written by non-native English speakers or are translated from other languages, which is why they often contain bad grammar or typographical errors. Amazon emails are written by professionals so you should not see any error in the text.
Check the email address.
Although scammers can send fake emails and make it look like it really came from Amazon Pay, you can easily determine whether or not it is legitimate by checking the return address. If the email address from which the email was sent looks like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or other email addresses with a domain name from a free email provider, then you can be sure it is a fraud.
Check the website address.
If you are redirected to an Amazon-looking website, check the URL to determine the authenticity of the website. Legitimate Amazon Pay websites are usually hosted on any of the following domains:
So, if you get an email with a link to a website that looks like Amazon Pay, don’t click on it immediately. Just hover your mouse cursor over the link and you will see the URL where it leads to at the bottom-left of the screen. If you see an IP address as the URL or you see a domain name that is different from those listed above, that is not a valid Amazon Pay website.
If ever you accidentally clicked on the link and you get redirected to a website that looks similar to Amazon Pay, don’t enter your account details or login information. Just close the browser window and clear your history.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed?
If you think you’ve been a victim of the Amazon Gift Card scam, don’t fret. Here are the things you need to do if you’ve been scammed:
Verify the email.
If you received a suspicious email and you’re not sure whether it is legitimate or not, don’t click the link included in an email. Go directly to the Amazon Pay website using this link, then sign into your Amazon account. Review recent purchases, activities, or your account information. If you are not able to access your account or if you notice anything suspicious, contact the Amazon Pay website immediately.
Change your password immediately.
If you accidentally clicked the link from a suspicious email and you entered your Amazon account details, you need to update your Amazon.com password immediately by following the steps below:
- Go to the Amazon website, log in, and then click Your Account.
- Click the Login & security link, then click the Password Edit button.
- Choose a new password, and then click Save changes.
If you entered your credit card information to the bogus site, contact your credit card company or the bank immediately to notify them of this matter. Remove that credit card from your Amazon account to prevent the scammers from regaining access to your account.
Contact Amazon’s Customer Service.
If you think that you’ve fallen victim to an Amazon Gift Card scam, contact Amazon so that you’ll be connected with the Customer Protection Review team. The team will assist you in taking the necessary steps you need to do after the incident. You will need to sign into your Amazon account or sign up for an Amazon account for Amazon to be able to assist you properly.
Report the incident to the FTC.
You can also file a report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency that handles reports about deceptive or unfair business practices. There are three ways to file your complaint:
- Visit https://ftccomplaintassistant.gov
- Call 1-877-FTC-HELP
- Write to: Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington, D.C. 20580