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How to avoid getting scammed as you make your holiday gift returns

SALT LAKE CITY — Return windows for sending back those unwanted Christmas gifts are rapidly closing for many retailers, and the bad guys know it. For decades, they have targeted retailers with return fraud schemes. Now, they are finding ways to target customers directly.

The gift giving season is over, and the return season is ramping up.

Amazon’s Natalie Wolfrom says they go out of their way to make returning convenient.

“We make it as super easy as we can,” she said. “You can do it from your phone, from the computer. Sometimes, you don’t need to label it at all, drop it off (at an Amazon Store, Whole Foods, UPS Store or Kohl’s.) But if you do have issues, we have 24/7 support that can help you out.”

But with more and more shopping being done online, scammers, more and more, are directly targeting consumers looking to make a return.

“Cybercrime is pretty high, especially during the holiday season,” Wolfrom said. “And we don’t want anyone getting scammed.”

You may receive an out-of-the-blue email that says, “click here to track your return,” or to “click here to review a product,” or “click here — you’re owed a refund.” In actuality, they are ruses designed to hack into your Amazon account, your computer or your bank account.

Amazon says if you get an email or call claiming to be from them, don’t click on any links or give out sensitive information.

“That’s why we always recommend you go through our portal online,” Wolfrom said.

And if you want to make a return or talk to an Amazon representative, do not search for how to contact them on the web.

I have reported before on scammers who set up bogus webpages meant to look like Amazon in hopes you will stumble upon their fraudulent sites and hand over your personal information.

Wolfrom warns to always go to your Amazon.com account, or open your Amazon app.

“Always go directly to the source.”

Retailers are not immune from being scammed themselves. According to the National Retail Federation, about $25 billion dollars was lost in 2020 by businesses in return scams — like where someone sends back an empty box or cheap knockoffs.

Those losses ultimately get passed down to consumers when retailers must raise their prices. So, to avoid holiday return scams, many retailers will ask to see your ID when you return an unwanted gift. And it may mean you will have to be bold and ask the gift giver for a gift receipt for the store to accept your return.

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