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Scammers pretend to represent large companies, wait on targets to contact them

Published: Sep. 30, 2019 at 4:12 PM CDT
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Of all the scams out there, most of the ones we hear about involve scammers reaching out to you, hoping to take your money.

In the attempt to take advantage of you, scammers are trying to become more deceitful, now just sitting around and waiting for you to call them.

A scam involving Amazon uses this tactic. Linda Osbourne was a recent target. She wanted to buy some bath products from Amazon. Instead of using her computer, she asked her phone for the company's number.

"I just said, 'hey Google,' and it (came) on and said the number for Amazon in... I don't even remember what state it's in," Osbourne says.

She called the number that showed up and on the other end, she heard the voice of a man calling himself Andrew Scott.

"The guy answered it as Amazon and said he worked there, and then he wanted to give me his personal number, and I called it and he sent me to the Dollar Store," Osborne says.

Osbourne says "Andrew Scott" also sent her to Walmart to purchase an Amazon card. She says he got angry when she purchased the wrong one. But this was just the first trip of many she'd take that day to buy gift card after gift card, in the end costing her more than $1,700.

She says every time she went into a store to get a gift card, "Andrew Scott' would call her and tell her which card to get. This went on, she says, for more than three hours.

Osbourne says gathering these gift cards was what "Andrew Scott" told her she had to do in order to get the special deal he was letting her in on.

That's what criminals count on, says Denise Groene with the Better Business Bureau.

"They're using those names that are well known household names that a lot of us do business with because they know we know them and trust them and we're going to do what they tell us to do," Groene says.

She says using her voice assistant to find Amazon's phone number may be where Osbourne's trouble started

"What's happening is scammers are paying for ads to be placed on searches like Google, knowing consumers are going to ask for those numbers," Groene says.

She says the voice assistant then provides the top result, which could be a scammer, and she says anyone can fall for it.

"This is their job," Groene says. "This is their profession. This is how they make a living and probably how they support their family. So, they're very professional, they're sophisticated, they're trained. You try to have a rebuttal to a scammer and they're ready and have a response back to you."

However, this isn't always the case. Scammers can be caught off guard.

FactFinder 12 investigator Alex Flippin called the number the man calling himself "Andrew Scott" gave to Osbourne. There was no response the first few call attempts, but someone finally did answer.

The person who answered introduced himself as an "Ethan" and asked how he could help.

Flippin was connected to "Andrew" who said he works in billing, but that's about all the answers he had. FactFinder 12 checked with Amazon who says no person named "Andrew Scott" works for the company and neither of the phone numbers he provided have ever been associated with Amazon.

"Andrew" said he wasn't authorized to give an explanation for this but did provide an employee ID, which also turned out to be fake.

Groene says there is no telling how many people fall victim to these types of scams because many are too embarrassed to come forward. Osbourne chose to do so because she doesn't want this to happen to anyone else.

"I just want people to pay attention to what's going on and don't get sucked into it like I did," she says.

Osborne contacted Amazon to report and issue and the company refused the $60 she spent on the Amazon gift card she was asked to buy.

FactFinder 12 also contacted Amazon, Google and eBay. Amazon has opened an investigation into Osborne's case. Google says it designs its systems to prevent scams, but the systems aren't perfect. After three attempts to reach them, eBay failed to respond.

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