How to Avoid Scammers While Shopping Online

Published: March 11, 2022

How to Avoid Scammers While Shopping Online

Online shopping has made it convenient to get goods and services from all over the globe delivered quickly to your home. Need an obscure part for your car? You might get it the next day without leaving your couch. Missing a pair of double-pointed knitting needles to complete your project? You’ll get them in time to get started this weekend! However, this modern convenience does not come without risks. Online scammers posing as web sellers sometimes use deceptive links that look like legitimate goods coming from a global retailer. This practice is called “spoofing.” When scammers attempt to pose as online retail employees or customer service agents to get your personal information, that’s called “phishing.” Both practices can put your sensitive information—like credit card numbers, passwords, personal information, and PIN numbers—at risk. In 2020 alone, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded 241,342 complaints, with adjusted losses of over $54 million in the United States alone!

How can you shop online while keeping your personal information safe? Amazon has provided some tips to show you how to spot scammers and avoid their schemes. These tips come specifically from Amazon, but they apply generally to all online retailers.

Here’s how to identify if an email, phone call, text message, or webpage is really coming from Amazon.

Things to be suspicious of include:

  • Receiving a package you did not order
  • Being asked for your personal information in any email, text, or phone call
  • Seeing typos or grammatical errors
  • Seeing links that take you to a website outside of Amazon
  • Seeing links that do not have a period before “,” such as
  • Being offered refunds that you did not request

Always go to your orders in the Amazon website or mobile app to deal with any questions about your purchases or items you may have received in error. Report any scammers you encounter to Amazon so they can deal with people using their name in bad faith. Reporting scams will help to ensure that other people do not get caught up in online fraud.

Other Types of Online Scams

Unfortunately, spoofing and phishing are not the only schemes you may encounter while shopping on the internet. There are a variety of schemes involving online gift cards. These scammers will use several different stories to try to get you to purchase online gift cards and then give the scammer the numbers. Here are a few of the different versions of common gift card scams:

  • Identity Theft Scams: These scammers call or email people to get them to resolve a made-up problem with Social Security, the IRS, your bank, or even jury duty using gift cards.
  • Job Offer Scams: In this scheme, you may receive an unsolicited phone call or email offering you a job but requiring that you purchase something from them to get the job started.
  • Fake Online Listings Scam: This scam offers a listing for a steeply discounted product, but asks that you pay in gift cards.
  • Boss Scams: Someone pretending to be your boss calls or texts you, saying they are very busy, and need you to buy some gift cards that will be used for gifts at your organization or place of business.

Payment with gift cards like the scenarios described above are almost always fraud. No legitimate business or government agency will ask you to pay with gift cards. If you do buy gift cards, keep the numbers to yourself. Never give the gift card numbers out over the phone, text message, or email. If you believe you have fallen victim to an online scammer, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices.