Amazon sues scammers who it says used company name to gain clicks


Amazon claims that the crooks collected a fee by driving traffic for advertisers and websites under false pretenses.

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Amazon on Tuesday sued a group of anonymous individuals in federal court in Washington on Tuesday for allegedly participating in SMS scams involving texts that claim to be from the e-commerce giant. The scam messages made bogus offers in hopes of getting targets to click on links that direct them to specific advertisers and websites.

“These bad actors are abusing our brand to deceive the public and we will hold them accountable,” Kathy Sheehan, Amazon vice president of business conduct and ethics, said in a statement. “We also want to remind consumers to be vigilant and learn to recognize the signs of a scam so they are protected no matter where they shop.”

According to the maker of the RoboKiller anti-spam application, spam texts are become more popular scam than robocalls, as people increasingly avoid answering calls from unknown numbers (both types of fraudulent messages are on the increase). RoboKiller said it detected more than 7.4 billion spam text messages in March alone.

Courts and regulators have in the past arrested crooks who used Amazon’s name. In March, the FTC asked a federal court to banish a crook to sell “work from home” opportunities while using the Amazon name. Amazon too sued crooks in three states in June 2020, and four people in other cases agreed to stop using Amazon’s name in marketing messages.

In the scheme Amazon sued on Tuesday, crooks are texting offering rewards and gifts, the company said. The targets are then directed to a survey that also uses Amazon’s name, and then sent to websites that sell products unrelated to Amazon. Scammers collect fees from advertisers and websites to generate traffic, according to Amazon.

FTC says phone users should be careful on text messages that offer free prizes, giveaways or coupons, or other offers that sound too good to be true. Other common SMS scams claim there is malware infection on users’ phones or falsely claim to provide an update on the shipment of a package.

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