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What to Know About the Latest Amazon-Impostor Scams

Be aware of the latest ways criminals use the company’s name to steal from consumers  

spinner image an amazon logo that looks like a wooden mask
Illustration: Matt Chase

Scams are epidemic these days as criminals use every conceivable avenue to separate consumers from their cash. It makes sense that they frequently pretend to be big companies or institutions affiliated with millions of people (potential victims, in their minds): the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, big banks such as Wells Fargo and Chase — or massive retailers such as Amazon.

Amazon, which raked in nearly $575 billion in net sales last year, is “the low hanging fruit” for scammers, because it’s one of those “entities that binds us all,” says Mark Fetterhoff, a senior adviser at AARP Fraud Watch Network.

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The massive company was the second-most frequently impersonated business in 2023, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The agency received about 44,000 reports about scammers using Amazon's name, with $19 million reported lost. The most frequently impersonated was Best Buy and its Geek Squad service (about 52,000 reports, citing $15 million in losses).

Impersonation scams in general — in which criminals pretend to represent a business or official agency, usually to steal money — cost Americans at least $1.1 billion last year, according to reports to the FTC. “These figures reflect just a small fraction of the public harm … because the vast majority of frauds are not reported to the government,” the FTC says.

In response, an FTC rule went into effect April 1 that includes stronger prohibitions and greater penalties against business and government impersonation. 

Older adults are more likely to lose more money to scams than younger ones: a median loss of $803 per person for people in their 70s, compared with $460 for victims in their 30s.

Amazon-impersonation scams grow more complex

The FTC said in an April report that it’s seeing an increase in cases of criminals impersonating more than one organization in a single scam — “for example, a fake Amazon employee might transfer you to a fake bank or even a fake FBI or FTC employee for fake help.”

Charlotte Cowles, the financial advice columnist for The Cut magazine, described in a story how she became a victim of a multilayered Amazon-impersonation scam — a reminder that nobody is immune to fraud. Cowles explained that she received a call from someone claiming to be from Amazon customer service, asking if she’d recently spent $8,000 on MacBooks and iPads. No, she hadn’t. Must have been identity theft, she and the caller concluded. In panic mode, Cowles interacted with people impersonating investigators from the FTC and the CIA, and by the end of the day, she had withdrawn $50,000 and given it to an Uber driver so it could be taken to a secure location. When she stopped to take a breath, she realized what had happened. “Someone waged psychological warfare on me,” she concluded, “and I lost.”

Some victims have been devastated by similar schemes. A retired Montana woman lost her life savings in a scam that began with a call from “Amazon” informing her of fraudulent activity on her account. That led to a supposed investigation by a man posing as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, who took $240,000 from her through an elaborate scheme. (Hear her story on this episode of AARP’s The Perfect Scam podcast.)

“It is not a new problem, but it’s a growing problem,” says Abigail Bishop, Amazon’s head of external relations for scam prevention. “And it’s an ever evolving problem, which makes it incredibly difficult for those who are fighting it to keep up and to continue to find ways to sufficiently protect consumers because scammers are incredibly sophisticated.” Criminals replicate the ways that Amazon and other businesses communicate with their customers “in ways that are incredibly convincing,” she says.

Common Amazon-impersonation scams

Sometimes the criminals will use a mix of the scams described below.

The fake order or delivery. You’ll receive a message that there’s a problem with your shipment and you need to pay a fee to straighten it out. The message may include a link that — like so many delivery scams involving UPS or the U.S. Postal Service — if clicked, might download malware on to your computer or lead you to a request for personal information. Or you may be contacted by phone, and the criminal will request your password, your payment information or other sensitive data. They may suggest that there’s a technical problem and ask to take control of your computer to fix it (see “Tech support scam” below).  

Suspicious purchase. This common scam accounted for two-thirds of the fraud reports Amazon received globally last year. The criminals call to confirm your purchase of what’s usually a big-ticket item — for instance, the $8,000 worth of tech devices that scammers said had been charged to Cowles’ account. “And you’re like, ‘I’m sorry. What?’ ” Bishop says. “You’re caught off guard, which they use to their advantage, creating that false urgency. ‘We really need to resolve this issue.’ ”

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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.

They may ask for your login info. It’s not a new scam, Bishop notes, but “continues to be prevalent, because, unfortunately, it’s effective.”

Membership renewal scams. Many people don’t remember when their annual payment for Amazon Prime is due, so when customers are told it’s time to pay up, it seems plausible, Bishop says. Scammers know you are probably busy and have a lot on your mind, she says, so they “are going to find those sorts of cracks in your day to weasel in and try to get you to do something that you shouldn’t.”

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Last fall, Amazon filed lawsuits against fraudulent organizations that it alleged impersonated Amazon customer support and sold fake upgrades for Prime Video subscribers. Renewal schemes are on the rise, the company warned on X.  

Tech support scam. Criminals incorporate the Amazon name in this extremely common scam, in which you’re told there’s a problem with your account, Fetterhoff says. “Then they’ll say, ‘We have someone who can remote on to your computer and take care of it for you.’ And while this person thinks they’re getting all the help in the world, what’s going on is [the scammers] are charging things or taking their personal information,” which can be sold on the dark web or used to perpetrate other crimes.

Bishop notes that if the victim uses similar passwords for different accounts or is logged in to a bank account, the scammer can do a lot of damage. Older Americans lost $590 million to tech support scams last year, according to the FBI’s latest Elder Fraud Report

Employment scam. Criminals will pretend to be Amazon job recruiters, offering nonexistent work-from-home jobs. They’ll tell the prospective victim, “We need you to set up an account and purchase this subscription to get an interview,” Bishop says. Or once you’re offered a job, they may ask for a start-up fee or tell you that you need to buy a “starter kit” with gift cards.

Publishing scam. Scammers tout publishing services to authors. “The scammers’ websites are designed to lure authors into paying a fee to publish, and then deliver substandard services or no services at all,” Amazon warns on its site. Last fall, Amazon sued a group of about 20 people in California, claiming they’d told writers they were representatives from Amazon Publishing or Kindle Direct Publishing.

Stopping Amazon-impersonation scams

“We have a zero tolerance policy for any bad actor who’s impersonating our brand,” Bishop says, adding that the company has an international team of attorneys and investigators working with law enforcement around the world to stop scammers. Last year, Amazon initiated takedowns of more than 40,000 phishing websites and 10,000 phone numbers impersonating Amazon.

The company had some recent crime-fighting successes: Amazon worked in collaboration with Microsoft and India’s equivalent of the FBI, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to raid and prosecute a ring of more than 70 fraud call centers across India that were impersonating many businesses, including Amazon and Microsoft, Bishop says. That was the first time Amazon and Microsoft collaborated in this way.

It’s a step in the right direction, says Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of fraud prevention programs, who believes that collaboration and openness about the scope of the scam crisis are crucial for successful fraud fighting.

“It’s going to take these big brands talking openly about it and being willing to say, ‘Yes, criminals are impersonating [us], and we want you to know, customers, because we don’t want this to happen,’ ” Stokes says. “Right now, Amazon is the only major brand that’s screaming it from the rooftops, freely. The other ones are still, in my opinion, afraid to associate their brand with [these scams].”

A large part of Amazon’s fraud-prevention strategy is focused on public education: making people aware of the red flags for scams and encouraging the public to report them. “We are protecting our customers on our store all the time, but these [scams] are happening off our store, and we can only do so much,” Bishop says.

The good news? Amazon saw a 15 percent reduction in the number of reports citing money loss in 2023 compared with the year before. Bishop says that might be attributable to greater consumer awareness of impostor scams.

How to protect yourself from Amazon impostor scams

Amazon’s advice includes:

1. For any questions related to an order, always check your order history on or via the Amazon Shopping app. Only legitimate purchases will appear in your order history.

2. Do not click on any links in an email or provide your information without authenticating the email or verifying the link. Visit the Message Center, which displays a log of authentic communications sent from Amazon.

spinner image a graphic that shows how an impostor scam works
Source: United States Federal Trade Commission,

 3. Know that Amazon will never:

  • Request that you purchase a gift card for any service.
  • Ask you to download or install any software to connect with customer service.
  • Ask you to pay for something over the phone.

4. If you’re trying to engage with Amazon, make sure you’re logged in to your account on the site or app. Don’t google Amazon to get its site: Scammers’ fake Amazon sites might come up in search results. Instead, type in your browser, or use the Amazon app on your phone.

Find other scam-prevention tips on Amazon’s site.  

Other tips for avoiding all kinds of scams:

  • Slow down. If you receive an out-of-the-blue communication from Amazon (or anyone) that suggests you need to take immediate action due to an urgent issue, take a breath. Stop and think. Scammers try to get victims into a heightened emotional state — otherwise, thinking calmly, you might be more likely to hang up the phone or delete their “urgent” message. As the FTC notes, “Anyone who’s rushing you into paying or giving information is almost certainly a scammer.”
  • You can’t always trust your caller ID. Remember that scammers can spoof numbers, so don’t assume a call is from Amazon just because your caller ID says it is.
  • Use hard-to-guess, original passwords for everything. Always make sure you have different passwords for all of your accounts. This is the golden rule of fraud prevention. When possible, use multifactor authentication, such as facial ID and a code sent to your phone.

Where to report Amazon-impostor scams

You can report scams at or, whether or not you’re a customer. Though Amazon isn’t able to respond to these messages, it’s important for the company to be aware of the kinds and scope of schemes. “We only know of them when they are reported back to us,” Bishop says, “because these are happening off our store.” Once reports reveal patterns, the company can warn customers and take legal action when possible.

You can also report to the FTC at The more information authorities have, the better their chance to link cases and ultimately catch the criminals.   

If you’re a victim of a scam or wondering if something might be a scam, you can reach out to the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline, 877-908-3360. It’s a free resource, with trained fraud specialists who can provide support and guidance on what to do next and how to avoid scams.

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spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.