PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Cynthia Ramirez likes to use her smartphone to shop on the popular online retailer Amazon.
"Sometimes I buy gifts to send to my children or my brother," Ramirez told 3 On Your Side. Sometimes I buy essential oils, toiletries, or things that I need around the house."
But, not long ago, Ramirez received a notification claiming to be from Amazon saying someone used her account to purchase a smartphone for more than $1,000. "I received an email that looked like Amazon stating that someone was trying to place an $1,100 charge to my Amazon account via my bank cards that I had on file."
Ramirez didn't know it at the time, but that email was actually from a scammer trying to scare and dupe her. The scammer instructed Ramirez to call the number on the email, which she did, and she spoke with a person who told her she needed to download some apps on her phone to resolve the so-called fraudulent transaction.
"We need to download this app so we can help stop the charge," Ramirez said. "They sounded just like Amazon. It was awful because you couldn't tell the difference, really."
But Ramirez says something just didn't feel right and immediately got rid of those apps that she downloaded on her phone. "I went ahead, and I deleted the apps, but without realizing that they had, at that moment, hacked my phone."
Cynthia was lucky. She acted quickly enough before the crooks could use the apps to access her financial information stored on her phone. As a precaution, Ramirez went a step further and got new bank cards, a driver's license, new passwords, and even a new phone.
3 On Your Side told Amazon about Cynthia's experience, and in an email, they said, "Any customer that receives a questionable email, call or text from a person impersonating an Amazon employee should report them to Amazon customer service. Amazon investigates these complaints and will take action if warranted."
As for Ramirez, she says the pandemic has a lot of people stressed, and dropping your guard is the last thing you want to do. "It was an awful experience," she said. "For someone to take advantage, especially those of us who are on Social Security. I think it's horrible that they would do that."
Sending email messages with a link that seems important is one of a scammer's favorite ways of luring you in, so don't fall for it.