Amazon’s position as the largest online marketplace in the world also means it attracts a huge number of scammers and ne’er-do-wells. While the service has numerous built-in protections, it can’t watch for everything that’s out there.
There are a lot of Amazon scams that would take your money in the blink of an eye. Know what the signs of a scam on Amazon are, as well as the steps you can take to protect yourself against these scams.
The Most Common Amazon Scams and Warning Signs
There are a few scams that appear more often than others on Amazon. Look for the red flags so you don’t fall prey to these tricks.
Suspicious Payment Arrangements
If you find a product on Amazon you want to purchase but the link directs you off of Amazon’s site to make the buy, it’s a scam. This not only violates the terms of service sellers agree to when they sign up for Amazon, but it’s also a huge flashing neon sign that indicates a scam.
If any seller asks you to go off Amazon’s site in order to make a purchase, you can almost be assured it’s a scam or a phishing attempt. Even if it isn’t, if you make a purchase anywhere other than Amazon, you lose access to any buyer protections (and the ability to make a return) that you might otherwise have.
Avoid Massive Discounts
You know the old saying: “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” If you see a PlayStation 5 for sale for $50, ignore the temptation to click the link. If you receive anything at all after the purchase, it won’t be a PlayStation.
Huge discounts on items that sell for much higher everywhere else indicate the seller is trying to coax you into an impulse buy. Take a moment and look closely at the branding on any images. Chances are, it will be something like “PlaStation”—not “PlayStation.” An off-brand product that looks just like the real thing except on closer inspection.
Payment Verification Emails
Many buyers receive emails that look like they’re from Amazon with a message that says something along the lines of, “Your payment couldn’t be verified. Please update your payment information.” It will provide a link that takes them to a site that looks a lot like Amazon, but isn’t.
This is another classic phishing attempt, but one done well enough that it is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. As a rule, never update your payment information via a link in your email. Instead, log into your Amazon account on a secure browser and change the data there.
Watch Out for Long Ship Times
Amazon is a site where buyers have come to expect near-instant shipping dates. If you don’t receive something within two days, it almost feels like too long. One thing that is worth noting is that Amazon doesn’t pay sellers immediately–in many cases, the payment takes 14 days or more to transfer.
If you notice a seller with abnormally long shipping times, it can be a sign of a scam. If that shipping time is more than two weeks, it’s likely an attempt to wait for the payment to go through and then void the purchase.
Watch Out for New Sellers
Although it may be home to millions of different seller accounts, Amazon has a robust security system that filters out most of the scammers. If an account receives multiple negative reviews, Amazon will ban it quickly.
With this in mind, many scammers operate multiple accounts. Keep an eye on the age of the account, as well as reviews. If it is a brand-new account, proceed with caution. The same applies if there are no seller reviews.
On the other hand, it’s also a warning sign if there are too many great seller reviews. Entire companies exist with the sole focus of posting fake reviews on Amazon. If the reviews all sound too good to be true, be wary of making any purchase from that account.
What to Do If You Are Scammed on Amazon
Unfortunately, anyone can fall prey to scams. It doesn’t matter how careful you are–sometimes it just happens. Maybe you were in a hurry or you just clicked on the wrong thing. Regardless of what happened, there are actions you can take.
The first step is to contact Amazon support. You can send an email or contact the company through live chat. Provide as much information about what happened as possible.
In the majority of cases, Amazon will refund you any expenses. Your Amazon user dashboard will provide you with a receipt and information about the date and time of the purchase.
The next step is to report a security issue. While this will likely be done automatically when you file a fraud report, it doesn’t hurt to follow up. If you provided information to the seller that could potentially identify you, let your financial institutions know to be on the lookout for fraud.
You should also monitor your email for any non-official communications from Amazon. If you receive a message from a scammer, do not respond; instead, forward the email to Amazon and report it.
It isn’t always easy to avoid scams. No matter how many safeguards are put in place, scammers find ways around them. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to be wary of any purchases you make. Pay attention to the listing and avoid impulse buys whenever possible.
Using basic online safety tips will help avoid falling prey to many of the most obvious scams. Take your time when shopping and only buy from trusted sellers. Amazon is mostly a safe platform–a few bad apples don’t have to ruin your experience.