Prime Day is a feast for cybercriminals. Here’s how to avoid them


Amazon (AMZN) is hosting its annual Prime Day event this week. That means you’re likely browsing the e-commerce giant’s site and app for sales on everything from diapers to doorknobs if you pay the annual fee of $14.99 per month or $139 per year to be a member. Prime.

But Prime Day isn’t just a major event for shoppers. It’s also an opportunity for scammers hoping to exploit the massive popularity of the event to steal customer data from Amazon.

According to Check Point Research, the intelligence arm of cybersecurity firm Check Point Software (CHKP), Amazon-related phishing attacks rose 37% in the first few days of July alone as Prime Day approaches, on the basis of a sample of corporate networks that it tracks. The company predicts there will be 10 million Prime Day-related phishing attempts worldwide this year.

Phishing attempts use email to trick people into clicking on malicious links or entering their information into fake websites in an attempt to steal private data, including payment information.

“Amazon is already a big source of phishing for obvious reasons,” said Mark Ostrowski, US East engineering manager at Check Point. “But the first week of July was that pivot point where we saw a pretty substantial increase. A nearly 40% increase…in one week in the number of phishing campaigns we saw.”

You will need to be careful when checking emails related to Prime Day. (Image: Check Point Software)

For shoppers, threats include thieves running off with their Amazon login credentials, stealing their payment information, and gaining access to other private data.

But you can thwart these schemes by simply being more careful about the emails you open.

More attention Prime Day means more criminals going to work

Prime Day has become a summertime constant since Amazon held the first event in 2015. With the exception of 2020, when Amazon held Prime Day in October due to the pandemic, the sale has increasingly attracted more attention from buyers and rival retailers looking to take advantage of heightened consumer interest in sales during the time of year.

Unfortunately, as with any major online event, cybercriminals have also taken notice. And they are determined to use the shopping extravaganza to wrest as much private data from as many unwitting consumers as possible.

“There is more publicity and more attention to these financial transaction events, and at best the same level of security that people have,” explained Herb Lin, senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

“Now would you expect this to be a more lucrative opportunity for criminals? Absolutely. He says, ‘Hey, here’s an opportunity to spend some money.’ And guess what? criminals listen to this too.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 12: An Amazon worker pulls a parcel cart for delivery on E 14th Street on July 12, 2022 in New York City.  Amazon is hosting Amazon Prime Day in over 20 countries, offering exclusive discounts on thousands of products, July 12-13.  The two-day sale kicked off in 2015 to celebrate the retailer's 20th anniversary.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Amazon’s Prime Day runs from July 12-13. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

According to Check Point’s Ostrowski, cybercriminals are using a scattershot approach to target Amazon customers during Prime Day. The idea is that, with millions of consumers ordering products from the retailer over the period, thieves will trick at least some into opening Prime Day-related phishing emails.

It’s the same concept that cybercriminals use during the holidays, when they send fake FedEx or UPS emails claiming that victims’ packages are delayed or that they have to pay additional taxes to have them shipped. Of course, victims have to provide their credit card details or login details to pay these taxes. And with that, criminals have what they need.

In the case of Prime Day, thieves will send emails claiming to be from Amazon warning that a customer’s order has been canceled or held. To solve this problem, you only need to provide your user data or your credit card number.

Some scam emails even claim to offer spectacular deals on iPads or other normally expensive products. When a victim clicks on the offer and enters their credit card details, the discount disappears along with their details.

Be patient and use good judgment

But there are ways to stay safe while shopping, the most important being to always be wary of retailer emails.

If you’ve shopped on Amazon and you receive an email telling you that an order has been delayed or canceled, don’t click on any links in the message. Instead, log into your Amazon account through a separate browser window or your Amazon app and check to see if your order is still on the way.

As for those emails promising crazy sales, your best bet is, again, to go to the source: Amazon.com. And, of course, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

An Amazon spokesperson, meanwhile, said the company does not ask customers to purchase gift cards for any service and will not request payment over the phone or email, only on its app. or its website. Amazon also won’t ask you to download software to chat with customer service.

There are also other ways to avoid scams. Instead of using your real credit card number, you can use a virtual credit card number, which most card companies offer. Virtual numbers are normally a single-use code linked to your credit card account. But if a third party has access to it, they cannot use it to make other purchases.

Above all, don’t jump to every email you see. Instead, take a deep breath and think before clicking on a link.

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Do you have any advice? Email Daniel Howley at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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