Scammers are creative, and they love to use the names of legitimate companies to make it sound for real.
This time around, it’s Amazon.
We heard about this one from a reader of the Bamboozled Facebook page.
“Would Amazon call and want you to work for them and charge $395 for a website for you to work off of?” the reader asked.
She explained that she received a phone call from someone identifying himself as a rep from Amazon. The details of the proposal weren’t clear, but the rep offered to help her set up a web page through Amazon.
The reader, then, would market Amazon through the page and help the company reach more people, the rep explained.
“They are going to call back at 2:00 tomorrow for the money,” the reader said. “I was sure it was a scam but wanted to make sure. They were telling me I could make lots of money.”
A lot of money indeed, but not for anyone but the scammers.
The scammers, interestingly, never called the reader back, so we don’t know for sure in what direction the fraud was going to go. But based on what we know of other scams, it probably would have gone like this:
The phony Amazon rep would have instructed the reader to send the $395 payment via Western Union, MoneyGram or another money transfer service that’s near-impossible to trace.
Then the rep would set a time to work with her on the web page, but quickly, there would be a need for more payments. For advanced technical support. For software or web access to something deemed essential for the project. For whatever seemed appropriate to snatch more cash from the reader.
And there would probably be an ongoing monthly fee the victim would need to pay to keep the worthless web site active.
A new twist on an old scam looks to turn babysitters, dog walkers and other home care help into check fraud victims.
Or, the scammer might offer a big advance on pay, or tell the victim she’s receiving a check to pay for some of the expenses. In that case, the victim would indeed receive the check, but it would be destined to bounce. The sender would tell the victim to deposit the check and send the money to a fake Amazon location to pay the start-up costs, but when the check is eventually determined by the bank to be fraudulent, the victim would be on the hook for the withdrawal.
We reached out to Amazon several times to ask about this scam, but no one returned our calls or emails.
Amazon will never just call you out of the blue with a job offer.
There are ways to make money doing business with Amazon, but this isn’t one of them.
First, there’s Amazon Associates. Through this program, you essentially market Amazon products on your own web site. It sounds similar to the fraud phone call, yes, but this is for real. Amazon isn’t suggesting you start a new or costly web site, but instead, says If you already have a web site or blog that gets reader traffic, you will earn a percentage of whatever is sold through your site.
John Sagona said he purchased a generator through Amazon.com, but the seller took his money and never delivered the item.
Then there’s Amazon Mechanical Turks.
This is a marketplace for jobs that need to be done by humans instead of computers. It could be writing a short piece about a product, identifying actors in a movie, completing surveys, transcription, or almost anything. Some tasks need humans with specific skills, so you might have to take a qualification test before you get the task. If you perform the task, you’ll get pre-set fee. Most fees are small, so you’d have to do a whole lot of mini-jobs to earn a decent paycheck.
One warning about Turks: The employers, called “Requesters,” can reject the work after it’s done and then not pay you. The rejections impact your online reputation with the service, and may make others not want to work with you. (Check out this story from The Nation in 2014 that dives deep into the working lives of some Turk workers.)
Watch out for impersonators. Scammers will sometime say they represent the real Amazon services and come up with ways to steal from you.
With everything, just beware. And if it sounds too good to be true? You know how that goes.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller atBamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. FindBamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.