Last month media outlets across the United States spotlighted the Bortz couple and their tragic experience of internet scam and financial elder abuse. ABC News 10 reported that in January of last year the couple received what looked like a typical email from Amazon. The email included the receipt of about $1,500 worth of products which were being sent to an address that did not belong to the couple. As they scrolled through the email, the couple spotted a number to report issues to.
The elders called the number and spoke to what they now know as Amazon Employee Impostors. These scam artists convinced the distraught seniors to provide remote computer access. After the shift to working-from-home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, remote access did not seem as unusual or suspicious as it would have appeared in previous years.
These cybercriminals are skilled in the art of deception and actually showed the elderly couple a fake Amazon website with receipts of recent orders. The scammers used scare-tactics and a false sense of urgency to persuade the family to provide sensitive and personal information on that website in order for a cancellation to be processed. The fake website then showed a $200,000 purchase, to which the hacker said “for you to get this money back, we need to synchronize the refund server with Amazon.”
Through persistent, daily phone calls, the hackers convinced the elderly couple to send a money wire transfer to the “Amazon Refund Recovery Center”. Throughout the whole ordeal, the couple wired money to multiple local and international bank branches. But their bank did not find this suspicious or freeze their accounts. This senior pair now has a lawsuit appeal pending.
The elderly couple were exploited for a total of $690,500.
Both Amazon and the couple’s primary bank company urge other elders to learn about the warning signs and red flags of internet scams that specifically target senior citizens. To avoid a similar tragedy, Elder Protective Services has compiled a list of the top three Amazon Imposter Scams and protections against them.
Phony Email or Text Confirmation
The Scam: In this instance, a potential victim receives an email or text that looks similar to other Amazon confirmation emails or texts, but no purchase has actually been made. The scam will bait a potential victim to click a link or call a phone number if there is a concern or to resolve an issue.
What to Look For
If you receive a suspicious email from Amazon:
Suspicious Charges or Unusual Activity
The Scam: In this detailed deception, a potential victim receives an email, text, or phone call about suspicious charges made or unusual activity on their account and what next steps need to be made to rectify the situation. The communication seems credible. The email has an Amazon header or has Amazon.com as the sender. The impostor on the voicemail leaves their Employee ID and reference number for the return call. This bait prompts the undiscerning elder to engage in conversation with an impostor who will exploit that victim for personal information and financial gain.
What to Look For
New Account Created Under Your Name
The Scam: In this situation, a potential victim will receive a call, email, or text notification of a new Amazon Prime account created using the victim’s information. The potential victim is given a phone number to call to confirm the new account or report an issue. Once an elder contacts the number, he or she is connected to a cybercriminal trained to use scare-tactics or create a false sense of urgency in order to procure personal information or exploit the victim for their money.
What to Look For
Amazon assures current and new clients that they company takes fraud, scam, phishing and spoofing attempts seriously. Amazon consistently warns consumers to look for the red flags of cybercrime: misspelled words in unsolicited emails, requests to update payment information, or requests to install software on a computer or device. Amazon NEVER sends unsolicited emails asking for sensitive or personal information. If something suspicious occurs, call Amazon directly using the number provided on the website.
Cybercrimials target unsuspecting elders because elders are generally trusting. Scammers use this trusting-nature to exploit money from senior citizens by employing fear-tactics or creating a sense of urgency that things may get worse if not taken care of at that moment. Elder Protective Services believes the best way to protect yourself or your loved ones from internet fraud and Amazon Scams is to learn the warning signs and put protective measures in place. If an email, text, or phone call seems suspicious, do not engage. Follow the next steps below to protect yourself and your assets. Always remember:
Steps to Report Internet Fraud or Amazon Scams
Daniel Klibanoff, an advocate for seniors, is currently serving as the President and CEO of Multimedia Lists, Inc. Daniel is also the founder and director of Elder Protective Services, an enterprise aimed to serve and protect elders. Learn more at https://elderprotectiveservices.org/