Victims are directed to make payments for online purchases only through merchant gift cards.

Who Is It Targeting:  Online shoppers

What Is It:  A scam that redirects payment outside of the retailer’s site

What Are They After: When shoppers found items they wanted on Amazon that were listed for sale by third party sellers, they were directed to email the seller directly before placing the order. That’s when the bait-and-switch began.

Once the victims described the item they wanted, they received payment emails that appeared to come from Amazon but were really fake emails from the scammer. The instructions were to purchase an Amazon gift card and send the number and PIN from the card to the seller in order to complete the payment process.

Of course, the scammer took the card information and depleted the gift card, then no item was ever actually purchased. The victim is out the money he spent on the gift card, and Amazon is unable to help since the card was purchased legitimately and used by the scammer.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Never let an online seller “skirt the system” when it comes to paying for items.
  • If you’re given the option to use a trusted payment method that offers consumer protection, do so.
  • Just because you receive an email with a company logo on it, that doesn’t mean it’s genuine.
  • Remember, if anything seems fishy about the transaction—such as being told to buy a gift card and use it for payment instead of your own secured credit card—trust your instincts and stay away.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from NJ.com.