Amazon shoppers who fall victim to fraud are being routinely fobbed off, Money Mail can reveal.
In the worst cases customers are losing thousands of pounds after being charged for orders they have not made.
It comes after we revealed last month how one reader was billed for £80 worth of goods he didn’t order.
When readers complain the online retail giant promises to investigate, then fails to act on their calls and emails.
Dozens of readers have written in to complain about the treatment they received from Internet shopping giant Amazon after they were charged for orders they did not make
When Amazon responds, it typically advises the customer to call their bank, which then in turn refers them back to Amazon.
Here Money Mail reveals how fraud victims are being let down repeatedly — and explains exactly what you should do if fraudsters target your Amazon account.
HOW FRAUDSTERS HACK YOUR ACCOUNT
All fraudsters need to get into your account are your Amazon log-in details, which are your email and password.
Often they trick people into handing over this information by posing as another company such as a phone or internet provider.
Amazon has repeatedly warned customers to watch out for fake emails designed to steal their account information.
Typically shoppers are encouraged to follow a link and update their personal information.
In reality it’s a ploy to steal details. Alternatively, fraudsters may be able to buy your personal information on the internet if it is stolen and sold on after another company is hacked.
To use Amazon you must link a credit or debit card to your account, so once in crooks only need to click on items to buy them. Only sometimes are you asked to confirm your card details.
Experts say criminals typically make a series of low value orders to see if they go through. They may then go for a big purchase or sell the account details to other criminals. The crooks may change the delivery address or try to intercept your packages.
Because you get a confirmation email from Amazon each time you order something, fraudsters often hack into your email account as well to delete the messages before you see them. The problem is that when you notice the fraud the onus is often on the customer to prove they did not order the goods.
Often fraudsters trick people into handing over their Amazon log-in details by posing as another company such as a phone or internet provider
FORCED TO TURN DETECTIVE
Ian Pooley, from Hartlepool, had to fight for months to get back £3,000 after his account was hacked. In April he spotted two payments to Amazon on his credit card statement totalling £2,184.
He contacted the company immediately and it promised to investigate. He also reported the fraudulent charges to American Express, which queried the charges on his behalf.
It emerged he had ‘ordered’ a baseball cap, a Valentino T-shirt, two Alexander McQueen jumpers and a pair of designer flip-flops from an Italian luxury online retailer called frmoda.com.
Ian hadn’t seen the order when he logged into his account because it was listed under a ‘hidden orders’ section — which Amazon says is for customers who want to keep secret purchases such as gifts.
While Amazon was investigating, another £879 transaction Ian didn’t recognise appeared on his credit card to Amazon Marketplace.
The charges were taken off his credit card account, but were put back on a few days later.
It turned out Amazon had told American Express that Ian had received the goods, sending Fedex paperwork as proof of delivery.
At this point Ian decided to take matters into his own hands and contacted Fedex. The delivery firm confirmed that the goods had been delivered to someone called Ian Pooley, but in London, not Hartlepool.
He then sent all this evidence to Amazon but received no reply. It was only at the end of June —more than two months after reporting the fraud — that the charges were removed for good.
Ian, 67, a retired oil and gas consultant, says: ‘Companies like Amazon think they are so big they do not need to provide customer service. They should be brought to task for the suffering they inflict.’
After Money Mail intervened, Amazon offered Ian a £50 voucher as a gesture of goodwill.
PASSED FROM PILLAR TO POST
Zoe Simmons says she has been battling Amazon and her bank since £446 was taken from her account in August
Many fraud victims cannot get a refund because Amazon and the bank both think the other is responsible.
Experts say the banks should refund the money under so-called chargeback rules, which apply to disputed transactions on credit and debit cards.
But if Amazon investigates and believes you received the items, like it did with Ian, it will try to stop the refund.
Zoe Simmons says she has been battling Amazon and her bank since £446 was taken from her account in August. The PA, 27, had received an email from Amazon on August 30 thanking her for her order. Before she could open the message it disappeared.
The next day she checked her bank balance and saw that £446 had been taken by Amazon.
It emerged fraudsters had hacked into her Amazon account and ordered two mobile phones. They then got into her email account, hoping to delete the order confirmation email before she saw it.
Zoe, of Bexleyheath, London, contacted Amazon which told her it would investigate and that her bank would reimburse her.
But when Zoe called NatWest, it said Amazon was responsible for refunding her as the fraud occurred at the retailer’s end and was nothing to do with her card.
Upset and panicking Zoe, who was flying to New York for a holiday the next day, had to borrow money from partner Daniel, 29.
Since returning home she’s been passed back and forth between the two companies, each adamant the other should foot the bill. Trading Standards advised her to make a formal complaint to both NatWest and Amazon. ]
The bank responded with an offer of £100 for the inconvenience but said it still couldn’t help. Amazon maintained it was unable to issue a refund. It was only after Money Mail contacted Amazon that it agreed to pay her back.
REFUND REQUEST WAS IGNORED
For many customers it is Amazon’s lack of communication that is so frustrating. Rita Hamilton says she has contacted the firm at least a dozen times since almost £500 was taken from her account.
In September a delivery man came to her door with a large box. She refused to take it because she knew that if one of her three daughters had ordered something online they would have told her.
Rita Hamilton says she has contacted Amazon at least a dozen times since almost £500 was taken from her account
Later Rita, 76, a former homecare worker, spotted two suspicious transactions on her statements. One, dated September 12, was for an Xbox costing £444.96.
The other was a £20.49 charge taken on September 17 for an unknown item.
Rita, who lives in Christchurch, Dorset, with 90-year-old husband Geoff, says she only uses Amazon to buy e-books for her Kindle or DVDs which cost a few pounds.
She contacted her bank which cancelled her card and directed her to Amazon for the refund. But when she complained about the fraud the retailer did nothing.
‘You get through to someone and have to tell the whole story again. Amazon never does anything. It’s like staff are following a script. I am just going around in circles’, she says.
‘This is a significant amount of money but Amazon has worn me down. I feel like giving up.’ Experts believe crooks hacked her account and ordered the Xbox, hoping to intercept delivery. It wasn’t until Money Mail contacted Amazon that it agreed to refund her and offer a £50 voucher as a goodwill gesture.
FURY AT BEING FOBBED OFF
Alan Jeffery is also furious about being ignored for weeks. His problems started when two boxes arrived at his house in Basingstoke at the start of September.
He thought they were a late birthday present from his daughter Kerry. But when he opened them he discovered a pair of pink headphones, two pairs of binoculars and a callus removal machine.
Alan Jeffery first thought the Amazon boxes arriving at his house were a late birthday present from his daughter
He called Amazon and was told five orders had been made on his account totalling £189.
When Alan, 69, he said he hadn’t ordered any of the items, Amazon promised its fraud team would be in touch.
As soon as he hung up, Alan called NatWest to cancel his card. The bank said that because the fraud occurred on his Amazon account, not his credit card, it was up to the retailer to refund him.
For weeks Alan, a semi-retired mechanical design engineer, says he emailed Amazon to ask where to return the unwanted goods and get a refund.
Each time he received the same reply, thanking him for informing them about the unauthorised activity.
Alan says: ‘Amazon’s arrogance is astounding. They do not want to know. They have fobbed me off and shown a complete disregard to the situation.
‘I think they just hope I will go away.’ Alan has now sent the items back to Amazon and written to the bank with evidence and proof of postage in order to get his money back. Amazon has sent him a £30 voucher to show goodwill.
Meanwhile, Annie and Robin Cox, from Hampshire, were left waiting more than eight weeks after reporting fraud on their account.
They had received three parcels containing a Wifi Smart Bulb and two metal detectors in August.
The next day Robin, 73, checked his bank account and saw that three payments of £18.49, £18.99 and £15.99 — a total of £53.47 — had been taken from his account.
Annie and Robin Cox, from Hampshire, were left waiting more than eight weeks after reporting fraud on their account
He rang Amazon and was promised a call back within 24 hours but none came. Amazon has promised to contact the couple to advise them of the next steps.
Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which?, says staff at banks and Amazon haven’t been taught the correct processes.
He says: ‘This is yet another example of how retailers and banks are not doing enough to protect us from fraud or help us get our money back.
These are appalling examples of customer service. Clearly the banks and Amazon do not have their houses in order.’
An Amazon spokesman would not comment on the individual cases but urged customers to watch out for fraudulent emails, saying changes to orders should be made through accounts, and not by responding to emails.
What to do if your Amazon account is hacked
Call Amazon on 0800 279 7234 to report the fraud on your account. You may be advised to change your password.
Next, report the incident to your bank. But, instead of describing it as fraud, tell it that you want to dispute the transactions you did not authorise and reverse the payment.
If you paid by debit card, ask the bank to claw back the money using ‘chargeback’ rules. If you paid by credit card, ask for a refund under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Adam French, of the consumer group Which?, says the key to getting your money back is how you report the incident. ‘It is important that your bank does not treat the transactions as fraud if you want to get your money back quickly, as fraud cases take far longer to investigate.
‘Once you have asked for the payments to be reversed, you can tell your bank you are worried your bank details may have been exposed and ask for a new card.’
Beware of any unsolicited calls from banks and other organisations asking for personal information. These could be scam calls from fraudsters who now have your details.
Mr French adds that there is a limited timeframe with chargeback claims, so be sure to make them within 120 days of the payments being made.
If you received the goods, you may need to send the items back, and provide proof of postage, before your bank will agree to refund you.