If text says ‘a problem with your account,’ believe the account, not the text

Call 4 Action

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The holiday shopping season is the busiest time for gifting… and unfortunately for grifting.

A West Seneca grandmother fell victim to scammers posing as Amazon, and her family is calling for action.

The suburban grandmother, just by sheer misfortune, got caught up in two scams simultaneously — the gift card scam, which News 4 has been hammering for years to just say no, and an Amazon Prime scam, with the grifters posing as the “good guys.”

It started with a notification someone made a fraudulent Amazon Prime purchase on her credit card for $79, so the West Seneca grandmom went online to look up Amazon customer service. She found a website — a fake — and called the number, where she was told “they could give her back her money.”

The whole experience has been so embarrassing for the family, the victim’s daughter Called 4 Action.

“If she bought eBay and Sephora gift cards, because Amazon had an account with Sephora and eBay,” the woman’s daughter said. “They could figure out how they were getting access to this, then then they could stop future scams.”

So the scammers sent the West Seneca grandmother to Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards. While they texted her she was getting credited to cover her expenses — NOT. The victim’s daughter finally convinced her mom spending thousands of dollars to catch a $79 crook was beyond the pale.

“Kept calling and kept calling her, and finally she called me back and I said this is just not right,” the daughter said. “I want you to come home and by then she was already $1,900 or $2,400 into this already”

That is $2,400 the West Seneca grandmother has little chance of ever seeing again because she used the PIN on her credit cards, rather than straight charges. Cybersecurity expert Dave Newell says, “Big Tech” companies such as Amazon generally don’t look for fraud unless it is costing them.

“That is claiming that you have made a fraudulent purchase, then when you go to the Amazon app and take a look it would be there,” said Newell. “If you don’t see that it is a sure sign that you are experiencing a fraud.”

Newell added, trying to track down a company using a search engine, as the woman did, is not the most reliable way to do business.

“A retailer like Amazon appeared to be contacting you and telling you about fraud, really the first thing you should do is not respond to that message, but just go to their website,” Newell said. “In the case of Amazon you could go to amazon.com.”

The woman and her daughter filed a fraud report with police, which is a first step. The problem is the woman gave account numbers to people she doesn’t know, nor where they are located. And no, you can’t use eBay or Sephora gift cards on Amazon.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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