When Amazon was first founded in 1994, it was only a website that sold books. But twenty-eight years later, Amazon has expanded into one of the largest e-commerce platforms, accounting for nearly 38% of total e-commerce sales in the United States. Beyond selling online products, Amazon has built its own suite of products such as Prime, Kindle, and Alexa and now owns multiple subsidiaries including Amazon Web Services, Twitch, IMDb, MGM Holdings, and Whole Foods Market that contribute to Amazon’s expansive market share.

With over 98 million users shopping on Amazon a month, it poses the question: is Amazon safe to buy from? While Amazon institutes several security protocols and buyer protection policies, no company can fully guarantee security from data breaches, hackers, or third-party cybercrime. Any time consumers share their credit and debit card information, they put themselves and their financial information at risk. Regardless of how secure a website may be, it’s necessary for users to remain vigilant and protect themselves when shopping online.

To help you understand what to look for when shopping on Amazon, we created this guide and answer the following questions:

  • Is buying from Amazon safe?
  • How do you buy things securely on Amazon?
  • Can you trust Amazon products?
  • Is buying “Used” on Amazon safe?
  • What happens if you get scammed from Amazon?
  • Are my card details safe on Amazon?

Is buying from Amazon safe?

In general, Amazon is safe to use. Their site and product lines follow industry-standard security practices when it comes to handling your data. However, any time you share your personal information online, you should take extra precautions.

What buyer protections does Amazon offer?

Amazon follows the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) when handling card data, safeguarding the privacy and security of users’ payment and transaction information. To protect their consumers’ data, Amazon also offers a few standard security protections:

  • Two-factor authentication (2FA): users have the option to turn on 2FA so that any time shoppers log in to their accounts they are prompted to enter a code sent to their mobile device. Turning 2FA on reduces the possibility of unauthorized access.
  • Protection of location data via Amazon Location: Amazon does not reveal customers’ location to anybody outside its marketplace. With Amazon Location, Amazon anonymizes all of the queries sent to data providers, and removes any customer data and account information. When users make a purchase from a third-party seller, it only gives them the purchase data essential to fulfill the order.
  • Customer support: If users receive any suspicious phone calls, emails, or texts, they can report them to Amazon to verify the charge or notification. Likewise, if customers have missing product or the product arrives not as advertised, they can work with Amazon’s customer support for a refund or an appropriate dispute.

But if you are privacy-focused, you may want to use a virtual card service that can mask your payment information when making purchases online. That’s because Amazon collects and stores a lot of personal data from consumers across their suite of products, including name, addresses, payment information, search and purchase history, content on Amazon Prime, and even voice recordings via their home assistant, Alexa.

With all of this data being collected about you, you may want to think about how your personal data is being tracked and stored. According to reports from The Center for Investigative Reporting and WIRED, a wide variety of Amazon employees may be able to access your personal data including purchase history.

Large corporations like Amazon may also be targets for data leaks and breaches that can expose your data. Login information, billing address, and credit/debit cards on file can easily fall into the wrong hands, so shoppers who value their privacy will want to keep these as discreet as possible.

While shopping from Amazon is generally reliable, you must also do your part in making sure you’re protecting yourself where you can. We’ll dive into a few tips on how to shop securely on Amazon below.

How do you buy things securely on Amazon?

A large reason for Amazon’s success is how simple and convenient they make it for consumers to buy anything online. To make a purchase, users simply need to click on the item they want and in a few keystrokes, they can have it quickly purchased and shipped. With Amazon’s Prime membership, consumers are guaranteed to have the product in their mailbox within 2-days.

While shopping on Amazon has never been easier, privacy and security-minded consumers will find it critical to add a few more steps to the checkout journey to ensure the safest experience. Below are a few tips for making secure purchases on Amazon:

  1. Buy directly from Amazon

Amazon sells two types of products: (1) they stock and fulfill their own inventory, and (2) they also host a marketplace where third-parties and small businesses can sell their own products. Whenever possible, you should make purchases that are directly fulfilled by Amazon rather than a third-party seller. Items are more likely to arrive as advertised, and because Amazon manages all inventory and shipping logistics, returns and refunds are often straightforward.

To check that a product is being sold from Amazon, make sure that the seller has Amazon noted in the “Ships from” and “Sold by” tags under the checkout buttons on the right rail. You can also filter Amazon’s search results to only show items that are sold by Amazon.

2. If you are making a purchase from a third-party, never make payments outside of Amazon marketplace

Some third-party sellers may ask you to make a payment for their product outside of Amazon, and may add that Amazon will cover any guarantees or refunds. This is false and could be indicative of a scam. Sellers may also do this to avoid having to pay Amazon any fees or commissions from their sales. However, under Amazon’s buyer protection policy, any sales that are made outside of Amazon’s marketplace will not be protected. This means that Amazon is not liable for any issues with the product or with the delivery time (i.e. if the product is counterfeit, never arrives, has defects, is late, etc.) You should always default to Amazon marketplace payments when buying from a third-party seller.

3. Not all coupons and discounts are real

When you see a product you like or that is on sale, you may feel the urgency to buy it now. Unfortunately, some Amazon sellers take advantage of this tactic and falsely advertise a sale or coupon code. For example, they may mark that one of their products was originally $20 and on sale for $5; however, if you search similar products or use price comparison tools, you can check to see if it’s even a discount at all. You can reference our guide for more tips on how to shop safely online and avoid fraud.

4. Double check product listing details

Because Amazon doesn’t have complete control over their third-party sellers, it’s important to be extra vigilant when you’re buying from an outside vendor. Check the product’s manufacturer and product listing:

  • Is there anything questionable about the product’s name or description? Do the images look like real high-resolution photos?
  • Click on the manufacturer’s name and see what other products they’re selling
  • Plug the name into Google Shopping to make sure the manufacturer has a real website and sells its products in the US
  • Make sure that the seller has plenty of positive and legitimate reviews, and check that their refund policy matches Amazon’s

5. Use your Privacy Card for purchases

If you have your credit or debit card information saved to any online account, you are putting your finances at risk. Large corporations are primary targets for breaches, and they have experienced their fair share of data breaches and hacks in recent years. For this reason, we strongly recommend that users shop on Amazon with Privacy Cards for the most secure experience.

A Privacy Virtual Card is a randomly generated 16-digit payment card number that can be used anywhere that traditional credit and debit cards are accepted online. Privacy Cards mask your true bank account and card information, keeping that information private from merchants and potential fraudsters. We’ll dive into how you can use Privacy to protect your online payments in a later section.

Can you trust Amazon products?

Amazon is committed to providing a consistent online shopping experience built on speed, convenience, and reliability - and for these reasons, customers trust Amazon and its products. Based on a survey, 89% of buyers agree that they are more likely to buy products from Amazon than other e-commerce sites. And millions of these buyers are loyal customers who make purchases on Amazon multiple times a week.

In terms of finding credible products, you should consider looking for products directly sold and fulfilled by Amazon when shopping on the e-commerce platform. If you are not satisfied with the product, Amazon products have a 30-day Refund Policy. And with Amazon’s various subsidiaries and partners, Amazon may often accept returns at partner stores such as Whole Foods, Kohl’s, or designated return locations that may be more convenient for you to access.

Can Amazon sell fake products?

Amazon doesn’t sell fake products directly, but what happens if the product you need is only available through a third-party seller? As nearly 53% of listings on Amazon are sold by third-party sellers, it’s possible that you may run into a situation with an outside vendor selling counterfeit products.

To prevent this, Amazon has strict rules against selling counterfeits and harsh penalties that could result in termination or legal action. In February 2019, Amazon announced Project Zero which attempts to preemptively catch counterfeit listings using an algorithm-based technology. They also pair this tool with the Transparency program, which uses secure, unique codes to identify individual product units and verify their authenticity.

Is buying “used” on Amazon safe?

Along with new and original products, Amazon also sells used books, music, and technology through authorized re-sellers or third-party vendors on their website. In general, it is safe to buy used products on Amazon because of their seller guidelines and return policy. But because there is no guarantee on product quality, buying “used” on Amazon is certainly more “buy at your own risk.”

Alongside each listed product, sellers can rate their products with the following status descriptions:

  • Used-Like New: item is in perfect working condition
  • Used-Very Good: very minor cosmetic imperfections on the item
  • Used-Good: minor cosmetic imperfections on the item
  • Used-Acceptable: small cosmetic imperfections on the item associated with regular use

It’s recommended that you purchase items in the “Very Good” to “Like New” categories to guarantee quality.

How do you know if an Amazon seller is legit?

It’s important to vet all third-party sellers by doing supplemental research. For example, there are a few well-known third-party sellers and partners such as Thriftbooks and Abebooks who sell used books through Amazon and are trusted by the community. Apple also authorizes Amazon to sell used and refurbished electronics and devices, which can often be found for much less than the original retail value.

An Amazon seller can generally be seen as trustworthy if they have a high star rating and a large amount of positive reviews. You can click on the the name of any seller to view more information, such as how many customer questions that the seller has answered, if they are a best-seller amongst Amazon users, and what customers are saying about them in their reviews.

When browsing through the seller’s profile, be sure to read through both the positive and the negative reviews. It’s also important to read through the most recent reviews, as quality can change over time. Target reviews that were given in the last 3-6 months versus reviews that were left more than a year ago.

Does Amazon offer buyer protection from third-party sellers?

If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, Amazon offers buyer protection through its A-to-Z Guarantee for items sold and fulfilled by third-party sellers, which covers both the timely delivery and condition of the items. To be eligible, you must first contact the seller directly and allow them 48 hours from your first message to provide an acceptable resolution. If you do not come to a resolution, you could be eligible for a refund if:

  • You’re still within 90 days of the estimated delivery date
  • It is 3 days past your estimated delivery date and your item hasn’t arrived
  • Your item hasn’t arrived, but it says delivered
  • The item is damaged, defective, or materially different than described
  • You asked for a replacement item and it didn’t arrive

Unlike Amazon products that generally allow for free shipping and returns, unfortunately, returns that are made through third parties typically require a shipping fee and sometimes a restocking fee. Because of this, we recommend that you first search for products fulfilled by Amazon, and only purchase from third-parties when you need to.

What happens if you get scammed on Amazon?

Despite all security protocols, there is still a chance that you could get scammed on Amazon by either unintentionally purchasing counterfeit items or having your account breached. If you detect any fraud on your account, immediately contact Amazon’s support team to assist you. Then, go into your account settings, change your password, and turn on 2FA. We recommend using password managers such as 1Password that can help you create and store strong, hard-to-intercept passwords for your various accounts.

Are my credit card or debit card details safe on Amazon?

Amazon follows PCI DSS rules when protecting your card details stored on Amazon. Yet, there is always a risk with providing your financial details to any online retailer.

In general, we recommend that you never store payment card information at at any online retailer since this can leave your card details vulnerable to outside parties. However, we recognize the importance of convenience when online shopping. If you must store payment information, we advise doing so with a  Privacy Virtual Card instead of your credit card or debit card. You can use and store Privacy Virtual Cards on your Amazon account with peace of mind, knowing that your true financial accounts are masked.

On top of shielding your payment information, with Privacy, you can:

  • Take complete control of your spending Set customizable spending limits to prevent overcharging and block hidden fees. This feature is perfect for managing subscriptions and recurring expenses on Amazon. If a transaction goes over the limit, it will automatically be declined. You can also easily pause, unpause, and close Privacy Cards at any time.
  • Check out fast with the browser extension Instead of saving your card information on file, you can use the Privacy browser extension to easily generate a unique, secure card number at checkout for every purchase. In one click, the browser extension autofills Privacy Card details into the checkout fields so you never need to manually enter card numbers again. You can download this for Chrome or for Firefox.
  • Create Merchant-Locked and Single-Use Cards Privacy Cards automatically “lock” to the first merchant where they’re used, so if you have a Privacy Card linked to Amazon, and Amazon is hacked, that card number can never be used anywhere else. You can also create one-time use cards that automatically close after a single transaction.
  • Leverage real-time monitoring Download Privacy’s mobile app to generate virtual cards for your Amazon purchases when you’re on the go, and receive notifications any time a Privacy Card is used to track your spend.

To add a Privacy Card to your Amazon account, simply navigate to your payment details, generate a Privacy Card exclusive to Amazon, and save the Privacy Card details on your profile. Once you make your first purchase using that card, it’ll become locked to Amazon.

Is Amazon safe to buy from? It can be if you’re making purchases with your Privacy Virtual Card. Make secure payments online and start paying with Privacy today.

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