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Amazon VP: Watch Out For These Common Holiday Scams

Online scams are more widespread than ever. Here's how to avoid them.

Whether it's an email for an order that you didn't place or someone offering a "refund" through Zelle, scams impersonating Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Free Report will be a common sight this holiday season.

Online scams are on the rise in general and many are specifically tapping into the chaos around last-minute gift orders. In 2021, the e-commerce giant took down more than 20,000 phishing websites and 10,000 phone numbers being used as part of these impersonation schemes.

"While consumers should always be vigilant of potential scam communications, the holiday season is a particularly important time for consumers to be careful as they are likely shopping more and receiving more order confirmations and other communications from retailers," Amazon's VP of Selling Partner Services Dharmesh Mehta told TheStreet.

Mehta answered some of TheStreet's questions about how Amazon is fighting holiday scams and what shoppers can do to avoid becoming a victim. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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TheStreet: What are some common scams popping up on Amazon this holiday season?

Mehta: Scammers are targeting consumers with fake orders for purchases they didn't make pretending to be Amazon. It's the number one scam reported to us this year by our customers.

Impersonation scams happen when a scammer pretends to be a trusted company and reaches out to try to get access to sensitive information like social security numbers, bank information, or Amazon account details. This year, we found that fake order confirmations accounted for more than 50% of the Amazon impersonation scams reported by our customers. These unsolicited communications often refer to a purchase (that you didn't make) and ask you to act urgently to confirm the purchase. When you try to cancel the fake order by clicking a link or calling the supposed "customer service" number, scammers then try to steal your personal or financial information. We invest significant resources to protect consumers and stores from these scammers.

Are shoppers particularly vulnerable during the holidays?

Anyone can get baited on social media, receive a call offering to provide fake tech support or be asked to confirm a transaction for something they didn't buy.

What can shoppers do to avoid losing money by falling prey to scammers?

We encourage our consumers to use these tips when shopping this holiday season:

-Verify purchases on Amazon. If you receive a message about the purchase of a product or service, do not respond to the message or click on any link in the message; instead, log into your Amazon account or use the Amazon mobile app and confirm that it is really in your purchase history before taking any action.

-Trust Amazon's app and website. We will not ask for payment over the phone or email -- only in our mobile app, on our website, or in one of our physical stores. We will not call and ask you to make a payment or bank transfer on another website.
Be wary of false urgency. Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency to persuade you to do what they're asking.

-Don't be pressured into buying a gift card. We will never ask you to purchase a gift card, and no legitimate sale or transaction will require you to pay with gift cards. Learn more about common gift card scams on our help pages.

-Contact us. If you’re ever unsure, it's safest to stop engaging with the potential scammer and contact us directly through the Amazon app or website. Do not call numbers sent over text or email, or found in online search results. Remember Amazon will not ask you to download or install any software to connect with customer service nor will we request payment for any customer service support.

-Check what others are saying. See if anyone else has reported a similar situation. In the U.S., Amazon has partnered with the Better Business Bureau to provide consumers with a searchable Scam Tracker that enables you to search suspicious communications reported by others by email, URL, phone number, and more.

Let's say a shopper identifies something fraudulent and steers clear. Why should they report it even if they don't end up suffering damages?

Many scams don't just take advantage of the brand that is being impersonated. The scammer has broken through additional trusted service providers to execute their scam such as TelCo companies, financial institutions, and payment apps. Many trusted entities have been violated in the wake of scammers' crimes.

The more consumers report scams to us, the better our tools get at identifying bad actors so that we can take action against them and protect consumers.

What is Amazon doing to fight the prevalence of this type of fraud?

We are diligently working to help educate consumers to avoid scams, ensure consumers know it’s us, and ensure scammers are held accountable. We realize this is an industry-wide issue and we are eager to partner with and learn from others who share our objectives in protecting consumers from scams.

Earlier this year, we adopted industry-leading email verification technology across more than 20 countries to make it easier for customers to identify phishing emails and harder for scammers to commit fraud. Customers using Gmail, Yahoo! -- that email is really from us.

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