Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Scammers take aim at Amazon Prime with fake subscription calls

Whether you subscribe to streaming video services or not, criminals are going after your wallet with a plan to nab your credit card details.

“Hello, I’m calling from Amazon,” the voice calls out from the other end of the phone, starting off the con with a local number to give you a reason to pick up. “We’re calling because you signed up to the wrong Amazon Video account and will be charged $39.95 per month.”

Saving money is clearly important, so when you hear these words, you might be inclined to think this is legit. But it’s not, and much like how no one is calling you from the NBN about your internet and how no one is calling you from Microsoft to fix your computer, no one is calling you from Amazon Prime Video because this is just a scam. This is yet another scam.

The overseas call centre that made this call was insistent, however, calling into the Pickr team and pushing the idea that they were real and we had made a mistake, rushing us with a repeated request to hand over our credit card details and remedy this problem immediately, lest we be charged up unnecessary fees.

But this scam has all the hallmarks of other phone scams, whereby you’re told something with a sense of urgency, and therefore have more trust for the caller and less hesitation.

“This scam works very similarly to the classic tech support call scams that have been around for years,” said Alex Merton-McCann, Cyber Safety Ambassador for McAfee in Australia and New Zealand.

“In these instances, a scammer will call pretending to be from a reputable technology vendor like Microsoft or Apple, claim there is an issue with the person’s device and offers to fix it for a fee and/or through a downloadable program — both of which are designed to steal valuable personal and financial information,” she said.

Scams like these aren’t new, and rely on the stress that urgency places on you. That might be fixing a computer, or it could be something like saving you money, with the goal to get you to commit without thinking.

The plan is to stop you from thinking

Thinking about the problem removes the urgency and incapacitates the scammer, but while they’ll want you to stop thinking about the situation, you actually need to think about what’s going on to work out whether you’re talking to the real deal.

Specifically, you’ll want to be armed with as much information as possible ahead of it happening, to make it less likely that you’ll fall for their trap. As such, it’s important to understand the scam and the script, because you can bet the caller has one, and they likely won’t deviate too much for it.

Every scam call is different, but in the case of the Amazon Prime Video scam call, scammers on the other end will try to suggest that you’ve signed up to a more expensive Amazon Video plan, and will then take you through a script in an attempt to get you to hand over your credit card details. You’ll be told about:

  1. The high price you’ve accidentally signed up for
  2. How they don’t have your details (even if you ask)
  3. How you will be charged a larger amount when you should be charged less, and
  4. To get that lower cost applied to your account, you need to give them your credit card details.

It’s all pretty easy to see once it’s set out for you, but over the phone and without a manual, you might get lost in the details. So look for the details.

How to work out if a scam call is legit: push the caller for details

If you’re struggling to work out if you’re dealing with a scammer, push for details pertaining to you specifically. Don’t give your name, your address, your email, or even your credit card details, but instead ask for them in sneaky ways.

Scammers work from scripts and those scripts are often pretty specific, so if a scammer says you need to give them your credit card details or your email address, even though you’ve apparently signed up for something already, simply ask them “don’t you already have my details?”

Most services are linked to you not through a phone number, but rather an email address and a name, and they’re things a scam caller won’t typically have, so you can press them for that: “I’m sorry, which email address signed up for this?” They won’t have an answer. After all, a scammer initiates the call on the back of your phone number, not through any real sense of information.

Not to mention that you probably know what you signed up for, so you may be able to lead them down a different track.

In Australia, Amazon Prime Video costs $6.99, but you could ask why their stated cost is different, even going so far as using a fake number, say $12.99 in Australia. That may cause the scammer to scramble to come up with an answer, as it won’t be in the script. They may even hang up.

Local representatives for Amazon Prime Video declined to talk to Pickr about this scam, but it’s definitely out there, and given the influx of scams in Australia lately amidst the lockdown, may be among the many targeting services Australians are using. While the call was on Prime Video in this instance, it could just as easily be about Stan or Netflix next, with the script easily transferable to any media service.

So what can you do?

How do you respond to scam calls

Once you’ve worked out whether you’ve been called by a scam caller, the approach is pretty simple: hang up and report the scam.

“Those of us who can identify this scam straight off the bat might be tempted to keep the scammer on the line, string them along and waste their time that might otherwise be used to target a more unsuspecting victim. However, it is always recommended to hang up straight away and report the scam to Scamwatch,” said Merton-McCann.

“You never know what useful information you might accidentally give away while trying to keep the scammer on the phone.”

Simply put, if you think you’re on the phone with someone and you think something is off about the call, hang up and move on. It’s just easier overall.

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