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Scammers pretending to be Amazon or Apple

Tech Talk

The calls started during the holiday shopping season when lots of people were shopping online. Scammers counted on people being in a daze about what they had ordered, for whom and when it (whatever it was) was supposed to be delivered.

The scam calls tapered off for a few weeks but have been ramping up lately.

Here's how the scammy Amazon calls work: the phone rings and you hear an automated message saying there's a significant charge pending on your Amazon account, usually for more than $1,000. The recording then says to press 1 to talk to an Amazon representative to help you clear up your account or to dispute the charges. If you do press 1, the scammers will try to scare you into thinking that your bank account or credit card is compromised, and you must act quickly to fix the problem. Then they'll either ask you for your Amazon or credit card info. Sometimes, they ask people to go to a real-looking but completely fake Amazon site where the scammers can capture your login info and then offer to help by taking control of your computer.

When you answer the phone, the scammy Apple callers will warn you that your Apple ID or maybe your iCloud account has some hefty pending charges on it and is locked to prevent future purchases. If you do press 1, just like the scammy Amazon calls, the scammers will try to scare you into thinking that your bank account or credit card is compromised and you must act quickly to fix the problem.

If you get a call like this, DON'T press 1 - hang up. Then login into either your Amazon or Apple account and verify that everything is fine. Login to any credit cards you have on your Amazon or Apple accounts and check the charges to double-check those, too. SPOILER ALERT: everything will be fine.

That these scammers use spoofed or fake phone numbers isn't new. Lately, they've been spoofing the numbers of actual companies, but not the company that's calling you.

The Federal Trade Commission runs a website where you can report scams like these, whether you've lost money as a result or not. Visit reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/

Here's how to stay safe from all the scammers:

• Be skeptical of email and all unsolicited calls. Some departments at Amazon will call customers, but neither Amazon nor Apple will ever ask you to disclose or verify sensitive personal information or offer you a refund you do not expect. Neither company will ever ask you to make a payment outside of their website and will never ask to remote control your computer.

• Ignore all unsolicited messages that ask for personal information. Neither Apple nor Amazon will ever send you an unsolicited message that asks you to provide sensitive personal information, such as your tax ID, bank account number, or credit card information.

• Don't answer the phone if you don't recognize the number.

• If you answer the phone, ignore any calls for immediate action. Scammers try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency. Please don't fall for it.

• Always beware of requests to pay via wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card from iTunes or similar cards. These are almost always a sign of fraud.

• Report it to Amazon or Apple. Any customer that receives a suspicious email or calls from a person impersonating a company employee should report them to the company customer service department for investigation.

Classical music is such a scam...

You pay hundreds of dollars for a Mozart concert and every time it's just a cover band.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at [email protected].