With the holiday shopping season upon us, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is warning consumers that illegal robocallers are trying to ruin Christmas by posing as a legitimate business such as Amazon, Apple or PayPal to steal your money.
These scammers call out of the blue and suggest – under the guise of wanting to help remedy the situation – that a large purchase has been charged to your credit card.
“Legitimate companies don’t do business this way, so just hang up,” Yost said. “These impostors want to get you on the line and cause panic so you cough up personal information. My hope is that you will answer by ending the call.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), various Amazon impersonation scams – many involving claims that a consumer has ordered an expensive product or service – are filling phone lines throughout the country.
The “representative” then persuades the consumer to give him or her remote access to the consumer’s device so the “representative” can issue a “refund.” Instead, the scammer gains access to the consumer’s personal identifying information.
In a variation of the scam, the fraudster persuades the consumer to buy gift cards as a way of “stopping” the unauthorized purchase.
On Amazon’s website, company guidelines make clear that Amazon would never call a customer to seek personal information or discuss a refund that the customer isn’t already expecting.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office offers these tips to help consumers deal with business impostor scams:
• Hang up if you receive a cold call from someone claiming that you have purchased an item from Amazon or another popular online retailer. Do not call back the number on your caller ID or the phone number mentioned in the message. Instead, if you are concerned about the supposed purchase, contact the retailer using its legitimate phone number or email address. Customer service contact information can typically be found on the company’s website.
• Carefully examine the details of your online account purchases and credit card bills for any unauthorized charges. If you see an unauthorized charge, report it immediately to your credit card company.
• Never allow a stranger to remotely access your smartphone, tablet or computer. If the caller claims to need remote access to process a refund, it’s a scam.
• Be highly suspicious of requests from a stranger to buy gift cards as payment for any product or service as part of a “refund” process or to allegedly help stop fraud from a third party. Know that once you disclose a gift card’s PIN to someone, that person will be able to access the money on the card.
To report a scam, contact the legitimate retailer through the contact information on its website and the Ohio Attorney General’s Help Center.
If you’ve fallen victim to a business impostor scam by disclosing personal identifying information, download the Ohio Attorney General’s ID Theft Basics publication and visit www.identitytheft.gov for help on how to proceed.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.