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EXCLUSIVE: Here's how Amazon helps consumers avoid e-commerce scams

Scott Knapp
Scott Knapp, director of worldwide buyer risk prevention, Amazon

Amazon takes numerous steps to track, detect, prevent and prosecute online scams aimed at its customers.

Scott Knapp, Amazon director of worldwide buyer risk prevention, recently spoke with Chain Store Age about how the e-tailer uses technology and strategy to protect shoppers from e-commerce scams, especially as Prime Day approaches.

What are some of the most popular scams targeting consumers right now?

One big trend is impersonation scams, which happen when a scammer pretends to be a trusted brand to try to get payment or sensitive information like social security numbers, bank information, or Amazon account details. 

Of all the scams impersonating Amazon reported by our customers globally in 2023, over two-thirds of scams claimed to be related to order or account issues and both were reported in more than 20 countries. 

Order issue scams are unsolicited phone calls, text messages, or emails containing details about a purchase you never made, asking you to confirm or deny the purchase and provide account information to the scammer. 

Account issue scams involve fake billing issues and may refer to unauthorized account access, often threatening account suspension unless the fake issue is resolved urgently.

From February to May 2024, among Amazon customers who reported financial loss, the top three tactics scammers used were: 

  • Phone calls from scammers regarding a recent fake order they say the customer needs to pay for, or they ask for personal information from customers for verification to cancel the fake order. In May 2024, 50% of all financial loss reported by customers was from this tactic. 
  • Emails from scammers regarding a customer’s Prime membership in which a fake invoice is provided to the customer. Customers are then asked to provide card information or personal information to cancel the payment. 
  • Emails from scammers regarding customers’ Prime membership in which they are told their Prime membership has expired or there is a billing issue with their Prime subscription. Customers are then asked to provide card information to renew their membership.

What solutions and strategies are Amazon using to combat them?

Our obsession with customers motivates our commitment to ensuring scammers are not using our brand to take advantage of people who trust us. We are diligently working to help educate consumers to avoid scams, ensure consumers know it’s us, and ensure scammers are held accountable. 

[Read More: Amazon advises retailers on combating fraud]

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Amazon has implemented an 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. 

In the past year, we initiated takedowns of more than 40,000 phishing websites and 10,000 phone numbers being used as part of impersonation schemes. We partner with law enforcement across the globe to ensure scammers are held accountable, including having referred hundreds of bad actors to authorities. 

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. Customers can report suspicious communications to us online. 

What extra security steps does Amazon take during Prime Day and other major sales events?

Amazon invests in protecting consumers and educating the public on scam avoidance year-round. While consumers should always be vigilant of potential scam communications, busy shopping moments are a particularly important time for consumers to be careful as they are likely shopping more and receiving more order confirmations and other communications retailers.

 During Prime Day 2023, the highest reported impersonation scam was email attachments with phishing links. Amazon customers reporting suspicious email messages increased from 5,000 per week to 14,000 per week from July 9-29, 2023, in the U.S.

Customers mostly reported suspicious emails that claim their Prime membership had expired or their billing information was incorrect via emailed PDF attachments.

In addition, around Prime Day in 2023 there was an increase in customers reporting Prime membership scams. These are unexpected calls/texts/emails that refer to an alleged costly membership fee or an issue with a customer’s membership and ask them to confirm or cancel the charge. These scammers try to convince the customer to provide payment or bank account information to reinstate membership.

How is AI changing e-commerce fraud, both for criminals and retailers?

While it’s possible scammers are using AI as a tactic, customers should always use a retailer’s official website and app when looking for deals, making a purchase, reviewing your order history, and checking the message center. 

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