Better Business Bureau Warns Of Scammers Using COVID-19 To Con Callers

Oct 13, 2020

Credit Flickr

COVID-19 is leading many to order items online from companies such as Amazon, with scammers posing as Amazon employees claiming to need personal information.

Plus, they’re also targeting the Better Business Bureau.

Usually the Bureau is on the outside looking in at scams and other grifting, but this phone number spoofing puts them right in the middle as a victim.

“Because we’re a trustworthy organization and we look out for those types of things,” said Tammy Ward of the Bureau's Pensacola office.

Ward said the Bureau's phone number is just one of many of legitimate businesses that con artists are using with this type of scam.”

“If we have done our jobs and have gotten the word out to consumers that we are trustworthy; then if they call and they’re spoofing our number, those people that they’re calling may believe them – because they think they’re calling the Better Business Bureau.”

Here’s how it works: someone answers the phone and it’s a recorded message that claims to be from Amazon stating there is a problem with your Amazon account.

“They can find any kind of phone number they want,” said Ward. “They can use a device that spoofs the number; they can put in any number or whatever name, coming up on the user ID, it will come up with that phone number.  And people will think that the IRS is calling them or Amazon is calling them, or the BBB is calling them.”

They also seek remote access to personal computers under the guise of “helping” to solve the issue. And, Ward says, it’s not just phone calls; emails can also be involved.

“So you want to be very skeptical or an unsolicited call that you might you receive,” Ward said. “Some departments at Amazon will call customers, but they’re not going to be asking you for any kind of sensitive personal information.”

In combatting such con artists, the BBB offers what could be a “magic word” for protecting yourself – “Ignore.”

“If someone really wants to talk to you and you don’t recognize that number, just let them leave a message; if you know who it is, you can call them back later,” said Ward. “Scammers want to make sure that you do something right away, and that you don’t ask to talk to anybody or you don’t get to think about it. So, they are going to try to get you to do something – or tell you that it’s urgent – and you don’t want to fall for that.”

Requests to pay via wire transfer, CashApp, or prepaid debit card, such as Money Pak, iTunes or similar cards, are almost always a sign of fraud. The timing of the BBB’s warming, says Ward, is to coincide with an Amazon “Prime Day” on Wednesday.

“That’s why [scammers] did that in the last week; because they know everybody is going to go online,” said the BBB’s Tammy Ward. “They’ve been going online more often because of the COVID that’s going on. But, [Amazon] has their Prime Days, and that’s why we wanted to get this out at this particular time.”

More information about phishing scams in general -- and whether a call or message is really from Amazon in particular -- is at bbb.org/phishingscam.  

If you’ve been a victim of this scam, you can report it at bbb.org/scamtracker.