Snippets issue highlights Amazon job scam and other home-based tricks: Internet Scambusters #719
Plenty of people are making money through an Amazon job based on the online retailer's affiliate program.
But scammers are also making money by tricking victims into signing up for a fake version of the program and then charging them for website design and ongoing services.
We'll tell you how the scam works in this issue, together with information on two other con tricks that aim to catch you out at your home.
Now, here we go...
Work From Home Amazon Job Project is a Scam
If you've always wanted to work for a large and successful company, you might be excited and tempted by a work-from-home Amazon job offer that comes out of the blue.
But as with many other home-based jobs you read or hear about online, this is a fake, as we'll explain to you in this week's Snippets issue.
We also want to warn you about scammers who appear at your front door claiming to be from your utility company with a warning about trees in your yard that pose a danger to power lines.
Or maybe they say it's time to audit your energy usage, if you'll let them into your house to check your power supplies.
Amazon Jobs Scam
In fact, the famous online firm is one of several big name retailers whose identities are being used for bogus employment projects.
In the Amazon job scam, potential victims receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a local area rep for the firm.
He has a great idea. He wants you to set up an exclusive local website that will enable you to sell Amazon products. You won't have to stock the products, just act as a sort of clearing house, passing the actual orders back to Amazon.
The great thing is that you can run this business from home -- oh, and it'll only cost you $395 to set up the website and then get up and running.
Sure enough, you do get the website and but now that the caller has your credit card number, you'll find there will be a monthly recurring "maintenance" charge.
But that might not be the only charge that starts appearing in your credit card account.
Pretty soon you'll find it's being used for all sorts of purchases and you're no longer able to get in touch with the "rep" who set it up for you.
The clever thing about this scam is that it mirrors fairly closely the affiliate programs that some online retailers like Amazon use to drive business and, at first, it might seem legit.
But here's the clue to the fact it's a scam: Neither Amazon nor any other retailer as far as we know actively solicits this type of business via random phone calls. Nor do they design websites for affiliates.
So next time your phone rings with that tempting job offer, hang up. If you do want to know more about becoming an Amazon affiliate, visit Amazon.com's Associates page.
Bogus Tree Trimmers
While you're at home thinking about that job -- or anything else -- your front doorbell may ring and you'll be greeted by a man in overalls claiming to be from your local power company.
Everyone knows that tall trees can be a real hazard to power utilities and that's precisely what your caller wants to talk about.
Of course, if you don't have tall trees or power lines in or close to your property, you'll know it's a scam. But if you do have these potential hazards, you might be tempted to let them go ahead.
Two potential scams emerge.
In the first instance, the front-door caller wants payment in advance for trimming the trees and then he clears off with your money, leaving the trees untouched.
In the second scam, the crook is just looking for access to your property and tries to distract victims out in the yard while an accomplice goes inside and steals cash and other valuables.
The first red flag that this is a scam is that, unless it's an emergency, utility company reps usually don't just show up on your door step without making an appointment.
That's not a hard and fast rule but they do normally try to give notice.
Second, they will almost certainly be in branded company vehicles and will carry identification with them. If you have any reason to doubt their identity, ask them to hold on while you contact the power company.
And third, it's not common practice for power companies to charge property owners for trimming the trees -- and even if they do, they wouldn't ask for advance payment!
Fake Energy Audits
Another way fake utility company workers try to get into your home is by suggesting they're conducting an "energy audit" with the aim of saving you money on your power bills.
Or the front-door caller may claim to be working for a government agency, again supposedly trying to save you cash.
Either way, the "good news" they tell you is that the energy audit will be free.
There are a number of directions this scam then takes.
For example, the fake auditor may just want to nose around the home, looking for items they can steal.
More usually, he tells victims that they've qualified for some sort of government rebate program or a discount on energy prices -- but, of course, there's a fee to pay first.
In other instances, your caller may just be a sly solar equipment sales person who offers you ways of saving money long-term by installing solar panels or a solar blanket.
You pay a deposit and then you may or may not get the equipment you thought you were buying -- and likely you'll have given away your credit card number.
You can avoid this scam by just not letting these people into your home.
One way or another, door-to-door solicitors are usually after your money.
Instead, if you're interested in reducing your energy costs via a genuine audit, visit the Home Energy Audits page on the U.S. Department of Energy website.
Alert of the Week
You already know that a supposed call from a relative in distress asking you to wire money is highly suspect. Usually, the voice doesn't sound like the person it's supposed to be.
But what about if the call comes from an attorney supposedly representing your relative or friend who, they say, has been thrown in jail?
That's likely a scam too -- and the real giveaway is when they ask you to pay with a prepaid debit card or, increasingly these days, an iTunes gift card. Then you'll know for sure it's a con trick.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!