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Tech Matters: How to avoid Prime Day scams

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jul 5, 2023

Photo supplied

Leslie Meredith

Amazon Prime Day: Some call it Christmas in July, and it's true that organized online shoppers can get deals on great holiday gifts, but it's also important to understand the risks. Prime Day runs from July 11-12, and cyber criminals are looking forward to it just as much as shoppers.

Prime Day is an annual shopping event, introduced in 2015 by the retail giant. It offers discounts and deals to only Amazon Prime members across a wide range of product categories, including electronics, home appliances, clothing, toys, and more. In some cases, the deals are even better than those offered during Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the November run-up to the holidays.

Prime Day is Amazon's top effort to recruit people to its membership program. Membership runs $139 per year or $14.99 per month. It includes free one- and two-day shipping on many items, as well as access to Prime Video, Music, prescription savings and more. If you're not ready to commit to a membership, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial in advance of Prime Day and later cancel it.

If you plan to shop Prime Day next week, you should be aware of scams surrounding this popular event and know how to spot them. Like always, fraudsters will construct deals that seem too good to be true and use them to lure victims into handing over personal information such as credit card credentials.

Expect an increase in Prime Day-related emails in your inbox. Don't open them. All major email providers include the subject line of the email and a bit of a description called a pre-header, along with the sender's email address. That's enough for you to identify an email offering a deal, and it will likely include "Prime Day" in the subject. Delete it. If you do open one, do not click on any link or attachment. Instead, go directly to Amazon and look at the deals yourself.

Do the same with emails claiming to be from private sellers on Amazon, especially if the deal seems too good to be true. If you're curious, note the seller's business name and search for it on Amazon. Again, no clicking links because they could take you to a website loaded with malware that could infect your computer.

If you do order merchandise (and this applies to all delivery services, not just Amazon), beware of emails, texts and calls that say there's a problem with a delivery. That's not how these companies work. In fact, you likely won't know there is a legitimate problem with a delivery unless you go to the retailer's website, find your package tracking number and then see the package status on the service's website.

If you receive an email or text directing you to a website to view a missing or any other type of delivery issue, delete it. Likewise, hang up if you receive a call. You want to minimize any interaction to prevent the cybercriminal from obtaining personal information, whether that's by visiting a website or talking on the phone. Always go to the retailer's website to check for yourself.

Your priority should be to protect your identity at all times. Never give personally identifiable information such as a social security number or financial information to anyone that you have not verified, especially over the phone. AI voice tools have allowed criminals to run more sophisticated scams -- do not trust these callers. Very few, if any, legitimate organizations reach out by phone.

Minimize your information online whenever possible. For instance, do not store your credit card in a browser or on a website for the sake of convenience, it's just now worth it.

You may see stored card information on your phone when you go to make a purchase. To delete them on an iPhone, open "Settings," tap "Safari," tap "AutoFill" and select "Saved Credit Cards." Choose "Edit" and you can delete them. This works in a similar way in your browser. Chrome users should open the three-dot menu in the upper right corner of an open Chrome window, click "Settings" and then "Autofill" and "Passwords." Click on "Payment Methods" to see saved cards. If you have Google Fiber or use Google Play, you need to keep one card on file. However, you can prevent other websites from checking for a payment method by toggling that option off.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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