Computer Expert Scammed While Shopping Online - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/17/05-Tyler

Computer Expert Scammed While Shopping Online

The scam is a variation of a scam called phishing, but it is even trickier.

In this case, the victim, Richard Hawkins, of Athens, did not receive an unsolicited email. He actually went to Amazon.com to make a purchase. From there, he was led to believe he was actually buying from Amazon, but he wasn't.

Working with computers is Hawkins' livelihood. As a systems analyst, he never thought he'd be scammed online.

"I hadn't really been able to forget about it since it happened," he said. "I mean, that's all that's been on my mind."

Last week, Hawkins went looking for digital cameras on Amazon.com and found one he liked, made by Canon. He tried buying it directly from Amazon.com, but got a message saying the item wasn't available. Seeing the "safe buyer guarantee," Hawkins decided to contact the seller directly.

"So, I emailed the guy, telling him I am interested in buying the camera," Hawkins said. "He said I will receive a confirmation email from Amazon.com."

Hawkins did receive an email that appeared to be from Amazon.com.

"It had all the links on it, linking you to your account and everything," he said.

Hawkins followed the instructions to wire money to the seller in Romania. $750 for the camera and express shipping, plus an extra $56 in fees to Western Union.

Days later... still no camera.

So Hawkins called Amazon.com and was told they had no record of his purchase.

"They informed me that well, people had been copying their email and sending them out fraudulently," he said.

"This is not obvious. This is very slick," Ann Harris, Director of Standards and Practices at Tyler's Better Business Bureau, said.

She hasn't seen this particular scam before, but knows exactly what happened.

"You've actually left the security of shopping on Amazon.com and gone to the person directly," she said.

"I've just lost faith in being able to shop like that, because I thought I could trust a name-brand site like that," she said.

After Richard contacted Amazon's customer service department, he received a real email from Amazon.com. The header looks just like the fake emails he got.

Amazon advises you not to click any links within an email, if you're not sure where the email is from. Instead, go directly to Amazon.com to make sure you get to the real site.

As for Hawkins, he can't afford to buy another digital camera, but when he does, he says he won't shop on-line.

Hawkins did some investigating of his own. He contacted several other people directly, who were selling high-end electronics for a low price on Amazon.com. They all sent him the same fake confirmation email and asked for money to be wired to the same address in Romania. Richard was able to trace the fake email to California and got police there to start investigating.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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