As a reporter, I’ve often said I could spend all week, every week, writing stories warning readers about scams that come down the pike.
I cannot count how many scam-warning stories I’ve written in 30-plus years. Well, here I go again. I myself just about fell for a scam yesterday, and so I want to warn all readers to be on guard because these crooks are getting crookeder by the day.
Yesterday, as I often do, I ordered some books on amazon.com. An hour later, in my email inbox, I noticed an item sent from amazon.com with a tag line about how I should verify my credit-card account with amazon.com.
When I opened the email, a message said the company had to limit my credit to protect me because there may be fraudulent activity by someone using my credit-card at amazon. The message asked me to verify my account information. I was leery about the request. But the webpage it was on looked EXACTLY like amazon.com’s pages, right down to its font styles. It must be legit, I was thinking. So I began filling out the blank boxes: name, address, phone number and more. Then I came to a box asking for my Social Security number.
“Whoa!” I said. “There’s something fishy about this.”
I called amazon.com and spoke with someone who checked my account. There was no verification request sent to me. She said amazon.com never sends such a request and never asks for a customer’s Social Security number. Then she told me she’d send me a follow-up message.
And here is what the message said:
“The email you received wasn’t from Amazon.com. We recommend you delete the email. For your protection, do not respond to it, and do not open any attachments or click any links it contains . . . If you responded to the email or visited a linked website but didn’t provide any personal information (such as your login or password), your Amazon.com information should still be safe . . . If you provided financial information, you may want to contact your bank or credit-card provider . . We also recommend running anti-virus or anti-malware software whenever you receive a suspicious email, especially if you opened an attachment or visited a website that was linked in the email.”
The message also suggested I change my amazon.com password, which I did right away.
That advice should be heeded by everybody, no matter which “verification” messages are received via computer, snail-mail or telephone. In fact, the very word “verification” should tip you off that’s something’s fishy. These crooks play upon fear (“My account’s about to be wiped out!”) in order for you to play into their clutches. I can imagine some people get so worked up when they come to the request for Social Security and credit-card numbers, they give them without thinking. I’m almost certain if they had not asked for my Social Security number, I would have gullibly proceeded to the end and sent the information right back. But I had written so many scam-warning stories about never giving out your Social Security number that, fortunately, a red flag popped up at that request.
What’s disturbing about that verification message is how the site was identical to the amazon.com site, which I’ve seen hundreds of times through the years. And it’s a site I have long trusted because I have had nothing but excellent service from it. It sure looked like the real thing.
There’s the old scam-warning that still holds true: If it looks too good to be true, it is.” We should add to that: “If it looks like the real thing, it might not be.”
These larcenous creeps have become so sly, so devious, so expert that you’ve got to be on your toes at all times to avoid their dirty little scams. Please be careful.