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BBB warns of new scam from imposter companies

A St. Louis area man lost $3,400 after thinking he owed Amazon money. And consumer advocates say he's far from alone.

ST. PETERS, Mo. — Walter Caution lives up to his name. He rarely answers his phone now, after he said scammers took advantage of him.

“I don’t like to owe anybody anything,” he said. “I was just trying to do the right thing and they pretty well got me.”

Someone called him and left a message that said his Amazon account had been charged and he owed them money. He used a cash transfer app to send them $3,400. That money can’t be traced or refunded now.

“It hurt my pride more than anything, that I got taken,” he said.

The Better Business Bureau said that scammers are getting more aggressive, calling people multiple times daily in order to get money. The idea is the more urgency they can place, the easier it is to trick people into paying before they think.

“When you’re getting that many calls, you do start to worry,” said Sarah Wetzel, director of communications for BBB in eastern Missouri, southern Missouri and southern Illinois. “You do want to make sure that there’s nothing wrong.”

In a more frequent scenario, scammers text, email or call people telling them their accounts have been compromised. They then pressure them into wiring money electronically or buying prepaid gift cards to reverse the charges and secure their account. All of those are forms of payments that are not traceable or refundable.

“They really use intimidation tactics to really put the pressure on them to make them feel like they have to take action,” she said.

The BBB said legitimate companies never accept gift cards or pressure app wire transfers to make you pay.

“The people are calling them pretending to be this large company and they’re telling them there’s been a fraudulent purchase on their account,” she said. “And the only way to rectify it and to make sure that this fraudulent purchase doesn’t go through is to go and buy gift cards.”

Something Caution wishes he thought of before he paid the scammers.

“I’d tell them if you’re scamming me, I hope you die a horrible death,” he said.

The BBB reminds consumers to doublecheck by calling a company in question through a phone number available on secured sites or phone books. Also, call your financial institutions and ask if a specific issue sounds legitimate.

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