Warnings Issued on Black Friday, Cyber Monday Scams
Warnings Issued on Black Friday, Cyber Monday Scams

By Jack Phillips

Amazon has sent a notice to consumers and potential shoppers to be wary of scams ahead of the company’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

In an emailed notice earlier this week, the Seattle-based retail giant said that “during this time of year, we often see a surge in impersonation scams,” or when a scammer contacts a person by “pretending to be someone you trust to get sensitive information like social security numbers, bank information, or Amazon account details.”

“Scammers send emails posing as Amazon and include pdf attachments stating that your account will be suspended or on hold. These attachments prompt you to click on a fraudulent link to ‘update your account,'” the company said. “These links lure you to provide personal information such as payment information or account login credentials.”

It advises users not to click on any unverified links or provide sensitive information without first authenticating the email or the link in the email.

Scammers have also been apt to make unexpected calls, emails, or text messages that pertain to a phony costly membership fee or that claim there is an issue with the customer’s membership. They are then asked to cancel or confirm the charge, but in the process, the scammer tries to convince the consumer to provide bank account information or provide a payment of some sort to reinstate their membership.

“Amazon will never ask you to provide payment information for products or services over the phone,” Amazon said.

The notice said people should only trust “Amazon-owned channels,” such as the company’s official app or website, to make changes to an account, be wary of a false sense of urgency, never pay over the phone, and verify email senders or links beforehand.

“Legitimate Amazon emails contain ‘@amazon.com.’ In your web browser, hover over the display name under ‘from’ to see the full sender address. Look for misspellings or added or substituted characters,” the notice said.

Scams Abound

As some consumers frantically try to save money on Christmas gifts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, there has been an increase in scams, according to Michael Dinich, the founder of the personal finance site Wealth of Geeks. Cyber Monday is the sales event hosted by some shopping websites on the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

“Fraudsters are becoming increasingly clever as technology evolves, and during this busy shopping period, it provides the perfect opportunities to exploit the increased volume of transactions and potentially catch shoppers off guard,” Mr. Dinich said in a statement to several news outlets.

One of the most common scams, he said, is for scammers to send an email to a consumer and say their billing information isn’t correct and that it needs to be changed.

Mr. Dinich said that “if a retailer asks you to change your bank details with urgency and claims there is a risk of losing out on an order you have made, then you should be suspicious” because “essentially, they are hoping to draw you into entering your bank details into a fake website that they have made to look real.”

“Regardless of whether you believe your bank details are correct or not, you should contact the retailer directly with any order confirmation or information so you can receive legitimate information on your account,” he added.

Another common one is for a scammer to send a suspicious-looking link via text message that urges the consumer to secure a good deal on a product.

“Scammers will replicate the retailer website’s URLs and layouts, which makes it extremely hard to spot whether it is fraudulent or not,” he said. “However, the majority of the time, the link is fake, and clicking on it will invite an intrusion of malware on your device, making your personal information vulnerable. Once they have encouraged people to click, they will then send phishing messages and keylogging malware straight to your device.”

130 Million Shoppers

A record 130.7 million people are expected to shop in stores and online in the United States on Black Friday this year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has estimated. The event is known for crowds lining up at big-box stores at dawn to scoop up discounted TVs and home appliances.

U.S. shoppers plan to spend an average $875 on holiday purchases, or $42 more than last year—with clothing, gift cards, and toys at the top of most shopping lists, according to a survey of 8,424 adults conducted in early November by the NRF, a U.S. retail trade group.

Brokerage TD Cowen lowered its U.S. holiday spending estimate to 2 percent to 3 percent growth, from 4 percent to 5 percent, as it forecast flat Black Friday traffic. With many consumers squeezed by persistent inflation and high interest rates, U.S. holiday spending is expected to rise at the slowest pace in five years. Most major retailers slashed their seasonal hiring.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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