by Ginger Allen | CBS 11

FORT WORTH (CBDSFW.COM) – It’s the holiday season so that means Santa is working on his nice and naughty list, and scammers are working on their suckers list.

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Bobbie Menefee just found out that she is probably on it.

The Fort Worth resident has spent a lot of time shopping on Amazon for gifts, so when she got a message saying there had been some unusual activity on her account, she decided to return the call.

“He said I’m calling you because someone has bought an iPhone. And it shipped to Santa Clara,” explained Menefee.

The alleged Amazon agent acted as he if wanted to help her get her money back. “He said I need you to download this app so we can get the money transferred back to you.”

She says he also asked her to open her bank account app and Western Union. That’s when she says the red flags went up.

“When he realized I wasn’t going to open Western Union, he became very angry agitated,” she explained. “Oh no, no, no ma’am. Don’t hang up. Let me get my account manager to talk to you so we can this transaction completed.”

Fortunately, Menefee did hang up.

But unfortunately, she also moved up one tier on the pyramid.

The Federal Trade Commission says this year alone fraudsters have sent nearly 14,000 fake Apple or Amazon emails and phone messages phishing for your personal information.

The scammers claim there is an unauthorized purchase or suspicious activity on your account.

Consumers who call back or “press one” on the outgoing messages confirm their emails or phone numbers and move up one step on that pyramid.

If you provide your name or other personal information, you move up again.

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Give your address, account number, and bank information and you’re closer to the top.

“The higher you go up on the pyramid, the more valuable you are as a target,” says FTC Attorney M. Hasan Aijaz.

Aijaz says even if you do not get to the top and get taken this time, there will likely be another time because now you’re a high value target.

“This is commonly known as a ‘suckers list’ where they have a list of high value targets that are then passed around from scammer to scammer, and they target the same people who’ve been targeted once. It’s horrific!” says Aijaz.

He says the lists are sold and traded on the dark side of the web where investigators have limited ability to stop the exchanges.

The FTC says fraudsters have stolen more than nine-million dollars on this most recent Apple and Amazon scheme. This means many consumers moved to the top of that pyramid and were scammed.

Remember, in the end, Menefee did not fall for the Amazon scam, but she still gave a lot of information and moved up several tiers.

“I’m on the suckers list. Really quite privileged,” said Menefee. “…never, never in a million years thought that existed.”

On a positive note, Aijaz says Menefee and others can move down those tiers and off that suckers list by not responding to the next attempt to trick them.

Simply do not return the call, text or email. And, if you do, do not provide any information. If you have any questions about the text, call or email, reach out the company directly.

Amazon also provides tips on how to avoid getting scammed.

If you believe you have been involved in fraud, you should report it to the Texas Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Better Business Bureau.

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