Amazon Scams To Look Out for Right Now

Amazons scams are worryingly common. We identify the tactics scammers are using, and tell you how to avoid them.

With a $1.3 trillion market cap, Amazon is the biggest ecommerce company in the world. It's the first place that millions of customers shop for tech, clothes, and even groceries.

Thanks to its popularity, it's also a haven for scammers: Apparel, home goods, and cosmetics are the top categories that suffer from counterfeit goods. And since the website has such an outsized presence, text scams, email phishing attempts, and gift card fakes often pick Amazon as their choice for impersonation.

As a result, Amazon scams are common. Here's what to know about the ones most likely to trip you up, and how you can dodge them.

In this guide:

Amazon Counterfeits

Much like similarly sprawling enterprises such as Facebook and YouTube, Amazon's sheer scale makes it tough to keep up with curation tasks that would be considered basic necessities at a smaller ecommerce operation.

Amazon is unwilling or unable to vet third-party sellers on its website well enough to prevent counterfeits from cropping up, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2019. Amazon says it has cracked down on the practice since, but fakes are still tricking customers today.

Fake and slipshod products can be a serious threat to the health of you or your loved ones when it comes to essential items like baby food or air filters. One Reddit user recently commented that they'd even bought a “niche pregnancy nutrition book” on Amazon that ended up being counterfeit.

To avoid a fake product scam on Amazon, try picking out which brand name you trust before getting on Amazon: That way, you won't be served the products that Amazon's untrustworthy algorithm thinks are safe. Recommendation sites like Wirecutter can help, as can adding the word “Reddit” to a Google search for a type of product.

Amazon Brushing Scams

A brushing scam is a way that a third-party seller can fake a “verified purchase” positive review, which will bump it up in the algorithm. The seller simply sends their product to a real address, unsolicited. They then use that information to write up a positive review, which boosts their sales.

If you get a free package from Amazon that you didn't ask for, you can take these steps:

  • Check if it was a gift from friends or family
  • Record the tracking ID
  • Fill out this online form from Amazon

One upside to this scam: You'll get a free item, as there's no obligation to return it.

Amazon Text Scams

Millions of people order Amazon packages so often that they may not even remember if they had a package in transit at any given point in time. That's what a lot of text spammers are counting on when they pick Amazon to impersonate.

A fake Amazon text can be hard to tell from a real one, since they'll both claim to be from Amazon, feature a short message, and will include a link.

Here are a few tipoffs that indicate a fake Amazon text:

Amazon text scam
  • Grammar or spelling mistakes
  • A regular ten-digit phone number (real Amazon texts will likely come from a four-to-seven digit source code)
  • Includes any link without an “Amazon.com” domain

One foolproof method for avoiding an Amazon text fake? Simply never click a link from a text. If it really is Amazon, you'll be able to log into your account on a desktop computer and address the issue just as easily there.

Online marketplaces are hot targets for cybercriminals. Learn how to spot and avoid Facebook Marketplace scams here.

Amazon Email Phishing Scams

Fake emails are similar to fake texts: They'll claim to be from Amazon, but might have spelling and grammar errors. The email address that sent the email is also a giveaway, since it won't be short, simple, and clearly Amazon-related.

Again, the best response is to avoid clicking any links, even if the email looks legitimate. Instead, you can log into your Amazon account and look under the “Your Orders” section to see if you can spot the same issue that the email claims exists.

If you already clicked on a suspicious link, you should immediately change your Amazon password, and make sure that two-factor authentication is turned on. You can also read our full guide to the best password safety tips.

It's also worth investing in some good antivirus software, which will identify and isolate phishing emails for you.

Legitimate Amazon websites have a dot before ‘amazon.com' such as http://'something'.amazon.com. For example, Amazon Pay website is https://pay.amazon.com/. We'll never send emails with links to an IP address (string of numbers), such as http://123.456.789.123/amazon.com/. If the link takes you to a site that is not a legitimate Amazon domain, then it is likely phishing.

Amazon logo smile
~Amazon Customer Service

Amazon Gift Card Scams

Gift cards are a fast way for a scammer to get real monetary value without exposing their own bank or credit card details. As a result, one giveaway that a phone call or email is a scam is if the person is asking to be paid in an Amazon gift card. No actual Amazon employee will ask you to buy them a gift card.

Amazon will also never email you out of the blue to offer you a free gift card. That said, there are a few real, non-scammy cases in which Amazon might actually give you a free virtual gift card.

  • Amazon offers store credit for product returns
  • Amazon gives users store credit for trading in old electronics, from cell phones to Kindles
  • Signing up for the Amazon Prime Visa credit card will earn users $100 in store credit

For all these instances, however, you'll want to triple-check that you are on the actual Amazon.com website before entering any personal information.

Amazon Tech Support Scams

Pretending to be a helpful tech support team is another way that scammers can trick customers into giving them personal data. In fact, in 2021, the FTC found that around one in every three people who reported a business impersonator scam said their attacker was pretending to be Amazon.

These bad actors may get in touch through email, a phone call, or a text message, but the hustle is always the same. The scammers will reach out unsolicited, say they're from Amazon, and offer to address a fictional problem with your account.

The exact story can vary. Examples might include:

  • Amazon wants to refund you for an unauthorized purchase… but “accidentally” transfers too much and needs it back.
  • Hackers have accessed your Amazon account, and the only form of protection is to buy an Amazon gift card and send the “tech support” team the code needed to use it.
  • Suspicious activity on your account needs to be checked out by Amazon's fraud team to ensure that you aren't at fault, and they need your account login in order to verify everything.

As always, the best response is no response. Don't call or text back. Instead, check it out from your own Amazon account or your own bank account. Never pay for anything with a gift card, and never give anyone remote access if they have reached out unsolicited.

If you think you were a target, you can report it to the official government FTC fraud website.

Will Amazon Ever Contact You by Phone?

Amazon does sometimes make outbound calls to customers, but this is rare. If Amazon calls, it will never ask you for personal information. Scammers will.

One common Amazon phone call scam starts be claiming that your account has fraudulently purchased a big-ticket item, such as a $500 Xbox or a $1,000 iPhone. Once the victim is panicked, the scammer pretends to switch the call over to a bank: They might impersonate the “Wells Fargo fraud department” or something similar. Then, they'll ask you for your banking information, which is what they were after all along.

Luckily, you just need to know that Amazon rarely calls, and that you will never need to share personal information over the phone in order to protect yourself from fraud. If anything sounds like it could be real, you know the drill: Log into your real Amazon account and check your recent orders to see if anything is amiss.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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