By Bob Dalles

My friend Bea had an experience that really rattled her nerves.  She received an email from “Amazon” telling her that her account was charged $3,000.00 for a television.  After confirming with Tony, her husband, that he didn’t buy it, they concluded it must be a mistake.  Tony immediately called the customer service phone number that was included in the email.

Once he finally got through to “customer service” he received yet more discouraging news.  Bea and Tony’s Amazon account had been hacked according to the “representative.”  Needless to say, they were both astounded.  Fortunately, the “representative” was able to offer them a quick solution.  For $500.00 the “rep” could repair the “hacked account” and expunge the charges for the $3,000.00 television.

Tony wasn’t thrilled with the solution but reluctantly agreed to the “rep’s” terms.  Tony reached for his American Express card to pay.  As Tony read off his Amex number the “rep” immediately stopped the transaction and told Tony that their credit card processing system had just gone down, again.  The “rep” explained to Tony that they were having problems with the system all day.  Tony asked if the “rep” would call him when the system came back up.  The “rep” agreed but warned that if Tony delayed, that $3,000.00 TV might ship before the order could be canceled; and then Tony would also have to pay the shipping to return the TV.

In order to expedite the cancellation, the “rep” suggested Tony pay with a $500.00 gift card.  The “rep” explained that they process gift cards on a different system than credit cards so that even though their credit card system was currently down, they could still process the payment by having Tony read off the numbers on a gift card.  Tony sent Bea out to pick up a $500.00 gift card.  

While waiting for Bea to return, Tony asked the “rep” how something like this could happen and why he had to pay so much?  The “rep” explained that it was not Amazon who was hacked, but it was Tony’s IP address that had been hacked which led to Tony’s Amazon account being hacked.  Therefore, the financial responsibility fell on Tony, according to the “rep.”

Tony was determined to get to the bottom of this nightmarish mess.  Finally, Tony called me and filled me in on what was going on.  I cringed as he revealed the events that transpired.  I immediately explained to Tony that he was in the process of being scammed.  Tony and Bea came within inches of giving away a sizeable pile of money to cyber criminals.  Fortunately, they did not give the gift card code to the scammers.

Can you tell me what Tony should have done differently?  He assumed that the Amazon customer service phone number that was listed in the email was legit.  The cyber criminals were so good that Tony believed he was actually speaking with Amazon when he called.  But he wasn’t.  What Tony needed to do was look up Amazon’s phone number instead of relying on the contents of this bogus email.  Had he actually called Amazon Tony would have found out that Amazon had nothing to do with this and that Tony, Bea and Amazon were all unsuspecting players in this deception.  I cannot tell you how happy I am that Tony contacted me before he and Bea handed over the 500 bucks to these criminals.

There are a lot of scams like this circulating.  If you ever receive a suspicious email like this, call the company directly.  Be sure to look up the phone number on your own and not rely on any phone numbers given in the email.  Companies like Amazon want to know about these scams.  So, report any emails claiming you owe money.  By the way, Bea and Tony were just one of many folks caught up in a cyber scam claiming to be Amazon.  If you get any emails from Amazon and want to verify them, Amazon’s “real” customer service number is 1-888-280-4331.  Please stay on guard and stay safe.

Never forget, cyber criminals will exploit the easy victims and unprotected systems.  Whether you are a business or non-profit who keeps records about clients, customers, prospects, employees, vendors, sales, budgets, inventories… you get the idea.  It is your responsibility to protect your personal network, your computer’s operation, and your data. Even a home user who may only keep records about club members, kids’ sports leagues, volunteer work, filing your income taxes, or just ordering a pizza using your credit card on your home computer is a target.

Are you certain your computer is safe?  You don’t have to do this alone my Friend.  My staff and I are here to keep your computer safer and keep it running.  We have the best solutions already in place and we’re only a phone call away.  Call us anytime at 727-534-4000.  We’ve been helping folks restore their peace of mind, and sanity, with their technology for decades.

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