OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Dave Flessner’s computer needed a power cord. So the Overland Park business man did what many of us do and bought it online at Amazon.
When he realized he had been overcharged for the shipping, he called Amazon customer support for help -- or so he thought.
The person who answered the phone was apologetic for the overcharge and promised Flessner a refund. But first this supposed Amazon customer service representative said he would need to verify that Flessner was who he said he was.
Flessner was told to scan his driver’s license onto his computer and provide his credit card information.
That same customer service representative said he would then need to take control of Flessner’s computer to process the refund.
“So I was supposed to get credited for that amount in the next hour or two, and I didn't get it,” Flessner said.
At that point, Flessner had the sinking feeling he’d been scammed. He was right.
Although he quickly cancelled his credit card and alerted his bank, the scammers had already tried to purchase more than $600 in bit coin -- an untraceable form of currency.
Burton Kelso, a technology expert with Integral!, said what happened to Flessner happens all the time.
“Dave didn't do anything wrong,” Kelso said. “He's like any other Amazon customer. He went online and made an online purchase from a retailer that he thought was credible via Amazon, and they got his information.”
Kelso said there are ways to protect yourself. For starters, be wary when you search for a customer support phone number. Although you’ll find several on the bottom of Amazon’s own website, these are actually paid ads for companies that have nothing to do with Amazon.
Here’s what happened when Fox 4 Problem Solver Linda Wagar called one:
Service Rep. Katy: “Thank you for calling support. My name is Katy. How can I help you?”
Wagar: “Hi Katy, are you with Amazon Customer Service?”
Service Rep. Katy: “Yes, I am."
Katy’s lying. She’s not with Amazon support, but we played along.
Wagar: “I'm trying to check an order I placed for a Blue Ray.”
Service Rep. Katy: “Let me check and see what happened to your order.”
Katy said she could check on my order without ever even asking for my order number. In fact, at this point she doesn’t even know my full name.
Despite that glaring lack of information, Katy told me she had found my order and could refund me my money since my package had not yet arrived.
But there was a catch.
Service Rep. Katy: “So I need to get into your computer in order to process the refund.”
That’s right. Katy needs to take control of my computer to give me back my money.
Once I let her into the computer, she types in her name, which oddly is no longer Katy, but Carol Willis.
Wagar: “Don’t you need my Amazon order number?”
Not yet. What she does want is my zip code, my cell phone number, my email and my credit card information.
At that point, I hung up -- since the real Amazon would already have most of that information on file and would never require me to provide it.
Plus, the real Amazon would never need to take control of my computer.
Kelso said it’s disappointing that Amazon has allowed paid scammers on its own website, posing as Amazon customer service representatives.
“I think people have a sense of security when you are dealing with Amazon,” Kelso said.
That makes Amazon customers easy pickings for scammers like Katy -- or is it Carol?
Fox 4 reached out to Amazon. They said the sponsored links at the bottom of those pages are clearly marked as advertisements. As such, Amazon said it can't be held responsible for what happens if you choose to click on the ads.