Watch Out for the “Ugly Scarf” Amazon Scam!

Last updated on March 9th, 2023 at 03:59 pm

An open box with packing foam and "scam alert" signs is in the foreground while a fire rages in the background
Made by Safe, Not Scammed in Canva.

About a month ago, my husband, Erich, received an Amazon package he didn’t order. Inside was a low-quality red scarf patterned with gold tassels. I assumed a friend had sent it as a gag gift and quickly forgot about it.

Ten days later, another unordered Amazon package arrived. When Erich opened it, he found the same ugly red scarf inside. I then realized this hadn’t been sent as a gift, but was part of a scam.

The most expensive ugly scarf ever?

The poor quality red scarf patterned with strange gold tassels is pinned to a window.
The ugly red scarf that Erich received in the mail. Credit: Rebecca Lea Morris.

When Erich checked his Amazon account, he found it had been hacked. His order history showed cybercriminals used his credit card to order both scarves and have them shipped to our address. 

However, sneakier hackers archive the orders they place so they don’t show up in the regular “Orders” section of your Amazon account. Instead, they end up hidden in the “archived orders” list, so check there as well if you think someone has access to your account.

You might think we got off pretty easily since the criminals only used Erich’s credit card to order two ugly scarves. After all, the unauthorized charges would be small, right? 

Scarf 1 was ordered on January 29th for a total of $352.56 while scarf 2 was ordered on January 18th for a total of $325.56.
The fraudulent purchases of the ugly, ridiculously high priced scarves. Screenshot edited in Canva.

Unfortunately not. Each scarf cost an eye-popping $352.56, meaning Erich was fraudulently charged $705.12 in total.

Curious about the bizarrely overpriced scarves, I searched for the brand that made them and found 31 similar ones for sale on Amazon. However, the prices had been hiked, and they were listed at $499 each. 

A selection of 10 scarves on Amazon selling for $499 each.
More expensive ugly scarves listed on Amazon.

I also did a Google Lens search for the image of the scarf Erich received. This revealed the same scarf was available for purchase on Temu and AliExpress for the much more realistic price of $2.48 and $3.35, respectively.

The same photo of the ugly red scarf from its Amazon listing appears on Temu and AliExpress where it is available for $2.48 and $4.45, respectively.
A Google Lens search revealed the same scarf listed online for much cheaper elsewhere.

Based on what happened to my husband, I think these scarves are part of a scam I’ll call the “ugly scarf scam.” Here’s how I’m guessing it works:

  1. Shady Amazon sellers list cheap, low-quality items for sale at ridiculously high prices.
  2. The sellers use hacked accounts (or fake accounts with stolen credit cards) to buy these overpriced items.
  3. They then ship the shoddy goods to the victim’s address to make everything seem legitimate to Amazon. 

As the items are cheap but sold for hundreds of dollars each, the sellers make a tidy profit from this nasty scheme.

How we secured my husband’s account

After we realized Erich’s Amazon account had been hacked, the first thing we did was change his password. I set him up with 1Password last year, so we used its password generator to make a strong, unique password for his account. 

A phone with the 1Password app open sits on a red laptop.
Image credit: Rebecca Lea Morris.

Next we enabled two factor authentication (2FA) using Authy. That way, even if Erich’s password gets leaked in the future, hackers won’t be able to get into his account without also entering a code from the app, which should be difficult, though not impossible, for them to get.

We then checked for any unrecognized devices and apps that had access to his Amazon account. We did this by going to his account page, scrolling down to “Digital content and devices” and selecting “Manage content and devices.” We then navigated to the “Device” tab and confirmed that there were no suspicious devices or apps with access to his account.

View devices and apps (Amazon devices, Amazon apps, non-Amazon devices):
Zero devices and apps are listed
No devices or apps had access to Erich’s account.

Next we scanned Erich’s computer for malware, just in case there was anything nasty stealing his passwords, logging his keystrokes or nabbing screenshots. Fortunately, that came back clean. If the scan had found something suspicious, however, we would have had to change his Amazon password again and reset his 2FA to make sure the malware wasn’t sending the scammers information they could use to get back into his account.

Then we changed the password on Erich’s other accounts that used the same password he had used for his Amazon account. We also checked for any unusual activity in those accounts, because the scammers could have gained access to those as well. Fortunately, everything seemed normal. He also set up 2FA on those accounts for maximum security.

Finally, Erich contacted Amazon’s support team to request a refund for the fraudulent charges and to report the scam. While the customer service agent was polite and said Amazon would refund the cost of the scarves, they said nothing about our request to report the scam. 

Hey @amazon, you might wanna check in on these tacky scarves listed for $499. My husband's account was hacked and someone ordered two of them. Given the high list price and the unauthorized charges, it seems that they are being used as part of a scam.
I took to Twitter to warn Amazon, and anyone else who might my tweet, about the potential scam. Source: beckyphilmath.

I also reached out to Amazon on Twitter to alert them to the potential scam. But, as of the time of writing, the scarves remain listed on Amazon for $499.

How my husband’s account was hacked 

After we secured Erich’s Amazon account, I checked both the email associated with it and his old password over at haveibeenpwned.com to see if they had been leaked in any data breaches. Sure enough, his email address and password were part of 12 breaches. Oof!

Oh no-pwned! This password has been seen 12 times before. This password has previously appeared in a data breach and should never be used. If you've ever used it anywhere before, change it!
Erich’s password was found in 12 data breaches-yikes! Source: haveibeenpwned.com

This meant Erich’s Amazon account was likely hacked by credential stuffers. Credential stuffers take usernames and passwords leaked in data breaches at one company and use them to try to log in to other websites. So the hackers may have found Erich’s email and password from one of the 12 breaches it was leaked in and hit the jackpot when they used them to try to log in to his Amazon account.

That’s why security professionals tell you to never reuse your password!

The takeaway

If you receive packages from Amazon you weren’t expecting, check your account right away to see if there are any fraudulent orders. And while you’re there, take the time to set a strong, unique password and enable 2FA for maximum protection.

Update March 9th

Unfortunately, the above security measures were not sufficient to lock down Erich’s account. Just a few days ago, hackers placed an order for a low-quality but ridiculously priced tie as well as, rather oddly, a regularly priced underwear set. This time, they had also been more sneaky and had hidden the order by archiving it.

Judging by the tie-seller’s Amazon reviews, other people had been receiving fraudulently ordered items as well.

Amazon feedback for the tie seller:
1 star: This was a fraudulent order. We never ordered this item.
1 star: I did not order this tie! It is to be picked up by Prime today (Review was crossed out by Amazon with the following message: This item was fulfilled by Amazon, and we take responsibility for this fulfillment experience).
The tie-seller’s Amazon reviews reveal Erich was not the only one receiving fraudulently ordered ties.

Given we had changed Erich’s password and set up 2FA, how could this happen? It seemed to me there were two options: 1) Erich’s PC was infected with malware, despite the previous scan coming back clean; 2) The hackers had added an app or device to Erich’s account that did not show up in the “devices” page and had not had its access revoked when we changed his password and added 2FA. While option 2 sounds far-fetched, similar situations have been reported previously.

To check for malware, we ran a more thorough scan. However, again, everything came back clean. That left a device or app that, despite not showing up in Erich’s account, somehow still had access.

Step 3: Sign out all apps, devices, and web browsers.
3 app(s) signed in to your Amazon account.
Tip: For maximum security, sign out of everything. It may take up to 15 minutes to sign out of devices, apps and web browsers.
Sign out of everything.
Done.
Three apps still had access to Erich’s account, despite not showing up under the “devices” section like they are meant to.

To revoke access to any phantom apps or devices, we went to “Login and security” and selected the “Compromised account” option. We scrolled down to the “Sign-out everywhere” button, where we saw a warning that three apps had access to Erich’s account, even though zero were listed on the “devices” page of his account. This may well have been the hacker’s point of entry! We then revoked their access, hopefully kicking the hackers out, and changed Erich’s password again for good measure. 

Fingers crossed that keeps the hackers out for good this time!

About The Author

1 thought on “Watch Out for the “Ugly Scarf” Amazon Scam!”

  1. Thank you for letting us know about this scam and cant believe they were able to archive the order. Its great to know that you are on their case and not only alert us to the scam but also show us how to make sure our computer is safe afterwards.

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