BEWARE! The Scammers are out to get us all

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Several years ago, I happened to become acquainted with a man who was in many ways truly brilliant  So impressed was I that I spent considerable time presenting him with an idea I had, a plan of action that could have brought in millions of dollars to both of us.  He listened enthusiastically to my plan and seemed to be extremely interested. So, I asked him ” When can we get started?”  He paused and then replied “So where’s the hook?”  I was confused by his response and so I asked what he meant by “Where’s the hook?” and he said something like “You know, the hook. the twist, the scam..”  I told him that we didn’t need any “hook” as the plan proposed had tremendous profit potential without stealing any money from anyone and simply by exercising a legitimate business opportunity .  He instantly became confused and then said he had to go and get ready for his trial.  “What trial?” I asked and he told me that he was on trial for fraud and larceny  and that he was currently out on bail and fully expected to get sent back to prison for a while.  Now my point in all of this is simply this.  It taught me that some people are simply driven to be scammers.  These are dangerous people to be avoided and then this happened.  

I happened to notice that when I looked up some of the books I have written on there they were and there they showed several sales having been made.  I found that fascinating given that up to that point I had no recollection of placing them for sale on Amazon and I have never received one penny from their sale on Amazon.  Now I am not opposed to selling on Amazon mind you , I simply hadn’t arranged for that yet and may well have done so but for the fact that there seemed to be a problem given that several of my books were already listed on Amazon and sometimes at absurdly high prices.  I had not done that but someone had.  

Amazon pickup & returns building
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I wanted to speak with Amazon.  To make that happen I Googled “Amazon phone and dialed up the first one presented.  Someone answered and I began giving them my information which they seemed to be taking down hopefully with the intention of helping me get it all straightened out.  It didn’t really alarm me when they began asking questions such as “What is your bank account information?”  After all, if they were going to  pay me they would need to have that information – right?  And since almost all of my business with Amazon involves my American Express card I was not concerned when they asked me to confirm my AMEX card number.  Just making sure, I thought.  But then next it all got very wild as I sat and watched as my computer screen went wild.  Flashing before me I saw things that did make me extremely  concerned; things like images of $500 gift cards apparently charged to my American Express card and other telltale signs that I was right then and there being severely ripped off.  And just as I was about to demand an explanation the person on the other end of the call.  simply said “We’re done” and immediately hung up.  I knew I had been had.  

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I immediately called American Express and sure enough they saw several charges not actually made by me and being the great credit card company that they are those charges were instantly frozen, and my card was immediately closed to prevent any further fraudulent activity.  Within 48 hours I had a brand-new card with, of course, a different account number.  But, I suffered no loss beyond some inconvenience.  Thank you American Express.  

Next I called my bank and sure enough my primary bank account had also been breached and funds had been withdrawn via Zelle.  I explained how it all happened and that, too, got resolved without any monetary loss to me.  But I was quickly aware of just how devastated I could have been, and I remained and still remain concerned over that fact that these con artists still have some information they could possible use to cause me significant damage.  

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This all happened just a few days ago and to be honest I still remain in a wee bit of shock.  Then just today I had another occasion to speak with someone at my bank and in so doing learned that there has been a huge spike in scams involving Amazon.  This is NOT because Amazon is a bad business but simply because it is so huge with millions perhaps even billions of dollars passing through it every day it has become a prime target of the scam artists.  So, what should you do to prevent becoming a victim?

Use a credit card and never your debit card.   Credit cards a far easier to shut down without loss to you.  With debit cards the cash transfer can be instantaneous .  Your bank may still cover you but then again they may not especially if you do not discover the scam for several days.  Another measure I think is possible, valid and wise would be if you are seeking the help of any entity with whom you have a financial relationship do call them and request help but when they begin asking you for a large list of your financial information ask them to please send you an email with everything they will need to check out your concerns.  If they give you resistance do remember that if they are legitimate they already have pretty much all of your financial information anyhow so stand firm and hang up.  Let me explain further.

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I have been buying from Amazon for years. Did they really need my credit card and bank account information?  NO.  They already had it so why would they be asking me to give  it to them again.?  I could have said:  “What do you show as my primary payment method?  Please tell me so I can confirm.”  In my case I am positive that response would have ended with a quick hang up from my fake Amazon,.  And speaking of Amazon something else I learned in this adventure is that damn near anyone can use the word “Amazon” in such a way as to have it show up in a google search.  See for yourself; go to google and search “Amazon phone number” and see what shows up.  Few if any of the numbers shown are for the actual Amazon and I know for an absolute fact that at least one of them will take you directly to a con artist.  

Watch out, Photo: Ron Irwin

Please understand that I am in no way placing fault or blame on the real Amazon beyond the extent to which I do believe they should make their contact information a bit easy for the average consumer to access.  But Amazon did not perpetrate the fraud I fell victim to.  That said I will also add that this kind of fraud has seen a huge spike over the last few months, in large part because more of us are shopping online due to the COVID-19 lock down.  More online shopping means more golden opportunities for the con artists and more and more of us can become victims.  So here are a few more final thoughts.

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Take all reasonable steps to assure that you are in fact dealing with a legitimate company.  It isn’t just Amazon that offers online buying so anytime you buy anything from anyone online be extra cautious.  If you suspect that you may have been compromised take action immediately.   Contact your bank and/or you credit card company and let them know of your concerns.  They will work with you to resolve your issues before severe damage is caused but only if they are informed quickly.  You also may want to change your user name and password now even before suspicious activity.  Too many of us try to keep it simple and easy to remember,  for example Sally Jones my very well make her user name “S.Jones” and her password “hotchick.”  That is way too easy to breach.  Consider an utterly bizarre user name such as zzbatdong99 and a password equally as thoroughly disassociated with your name or other common names.  Most important of all if at any time in any conversation with anyone involving your personal financial interests such as but no limited to your bank account or accounts or one or more of credit cards, immediately terminate the conversation the instant any suspicion arises in the course of the conversation.  With banking the safest procedure is to go into the bank.  Non-bank credit cards such as American Express are not quite that simple but ascertaining the legitimacy of their telephone numbers is fairly straight up.  

Being a victim of fraud is deeply disturbing and the incidence of fraudulent activity has risen dramatically of late.  Now more than ever we all must take action to protect ourselves and i hope this has helped you find effective ways of doing so.  


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