If it feels like multiple scammers and spammers are flooding your various inboxes, that’s because they probably are.
Fake text messages and emails with phishing attempts from virtual scammers have been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. And one of the more common methods scammers have used lately is fake messages pretending to be from an Amazon representative, who may claim to check in about suspicious activity on your account or even a delayed package.
Typically, these phishing or “smishing”[ads1]; attacks – also known as SMS phishing – are aimed at tricking you into thinking you’re communicating with a legitimate representative of the e-commerce giant. If you’re not careful, you could hand over valuable personal information from your credit card information to login credentials for your online accounts, or you could click on links with malware that infects your devices with viruses.
The Federal Trade Commission reports that US consumers collectively lost approximately $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, a 70% increase from the previous year. About a third of this came from fraudsters.
So, what can you do to make sure you don’t get taken in by one of these increasingly common spammer scams?
How to check for fraud
Do not click on any links, or share any personal information, unless you are absolutely certain that you are actually speaking with an actual representative from Amazon, or another legitimate company or organization.
The FTC notes that there are several telltale signs often associated with scammers, who may “use a variety of ever-changing stories to try to get you in.” These include:
- Promise you’ve won a free prize
- Offers a form of low-interest credit
- Notifies you of allegedly suspicious account activity
- Says there is a problem with your payment information
- Sending you a fake invoice
Amazon itself offers an online guide to help its customers identify suspicious messages purporting to be official Amazon communications. The company says red flags include order confirmations for items you didn’t order and messages with grammatical errors or questions about installing software.
The company says that if you’re suspicious of a message asking for updated payment information, you should go to your online Amazon account’s “Your Orders” page. “If you are not prompted to update your payment method on that screen, the message is not from Amazon,” the company says.
Many scammers rely on “spoofing,” a practice that tricks your phone’s caller ID into thinking you’re getting a text or a call from someone you trust. In some cases, they even impersonate your own number, making it look like you’re calling or texting yourself.
So to be extra careful, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) advises that you “never share your personal or financial information via email, text message or over the phone.”
How to block and report spammers
If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a particular text or email, the FTC advises you to contact the company or institution’s “verifiable customer service line.” Visit the company’s website to find a valid contact number or email address, instead of replying to the message you received.
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 weed out calls or texts from unknown numbers.
Unfortunately, some scammers use different numbers or addresses for each message they send, so you’re playing a game of virtual Whack-a-Mole, constantly blocking suspicious numbers and emails while the scammers go through new ones.
At that point, you should consider reporting spam and phishing attempts to your wireless carrier or email service, along with government agencies—including the FTC’s online fraud complaint form and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
If the suspected scammer claims to represent a specific company like Amazon or a government entity, you can also try reporting the attempt to the actual organization. Amazon suggests visiting the company’s “Report Something Suspicious” page in its customer service section, where you can report texts, emails or phone calls you’ve received that you suspect didn’t actually come from Amazon.
Register now: Get smarter about your money and your career with our weekly newsletter
Scammers are texting you from your own number now – here’s what to do if it happens
If your passwords are less than 8 characters, change them immediately, says a new study