Impostors posing as online retailer Amazon have been bombarding U.S. consumers with up to 150 million robocalls a month, warns YouMail Inc., an Irvine, California-based firm that tracks scam calls and offers robocall-blocking apps. The calls skyrocketed during the three-month period ending in April, the company says.
Perhaps you've gotten one of the nuisance calls. An alert purports there has been a suspicious charge on your account — say, for $1,499 — and suggests what steps to take next. These steps invariably spell trouble, so it's best to hang up. If you are concerned, contact the megaretailer.
Prior to the recent spike, robocalls that were supposedly from Amazon totaled about 10 million to 30 million per month, says YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. To put the figures in perspective, U.S. consumers now receive an estimated 4.5 billion to 5 billion robocalls a month, he notes.
Amazon impostors are preying on people's trust in its brand, Quilici says. Other big companies, such as Costco, also are prime targets for impostors, so be wary of a call claiming to be from a megaretailer.
"Amazon's a great target because they're almost universal,” Quilici says. “Very few people don't do some ordering from Amazon. For them to get a call from Amazon or a fraud alert doesn't seem that unusual. People just think, Oh, this is Amazon trying to help me out.” Quilici's firm is not alone in observing a huge rise in Amazon scams.
"Hi, this is Daniel from Amazon Customer Service. We have seen a recent order … which is billed on your card attached to your Amazon account. The amount charged is $1,499. We noticed some suspicious activity on your account. So we have put in hold to [a hold on] this transaction. Please press 1 now. And to report, please press 2. Thank you."
Listen to this illegal robocall.
AARP helpline confirms rise
This year, Amazon scams originating from robocalls, texts and emails have been among the top five complaints to AARP's Fraud Watch Network helpline (877-908-3360 toll-free). “Consumer reliance on delivery services such as Amazon during the pandemic has created an environment where Amazon-related scams are now almost as prevalent as some government impostor scams,” says Mark Fetterhoff, a helpline official.
The Amazon-scam robocalls tend to start with someone saying there has been suspicious activity on your account, and then he asks you to press 1 or call another phone number. Next, the scammer may ask for your Amazon account information. Or he may ask to help you by taking over control of your computer via software that lets him gain access to your credit card, banking and other sensitive information — so he can steal your identity and your money.
When call volume soars like this, it suggests the scams are working, Quilici says. “It becomes a trend, and criminals are like everybody else: They'll jump on the latest trend.”